Airborne Captions on a Handheld Device
Editor: After literally years of drought, it seems that the topic of
providing communications access to people with hearing loss while
traveling has become the "topic de jour". Here's news from WGBH and the
IMS Company about captioning on a handheld device!
IFE solutions provider, The IMS Company, and the Media Access Group at
WGBH in Boston, have developed a solution for the provisioning of
closed-captioned media content on IMS' portable in-flight entertainment
devices, it was announced today by Mary Watkins, the WGBH Media Access
Group's director of communications, and IMS' vice president sales and
marketing Harry Gray.
The initiative, the first use of closed-captions on an IFE portable, is
intended to address the increased interest by airlines in providing
closed-captioned media following the announcement by the U.S. Department
of Transportation (DOT) in February 2006 that it planned to require
airlines flying in and out of the United States to provide closed-caption
capability on inflight media. "Providing a closed-caption service on
portable media players is a solution that can now be implemented
cost-effectively on a near-term basis," said Gray.
Closed caption content is expected to be deliverable to new portables
customers on IMS' PAV-704 and PAV-705 platforms in October 2008, according
The solution involves providing captions-text transcriptions of the
audio portion of TV shows and movies for people who are deaf or hard of
hearing-in a player-compatible format and superimposing them on the video
at the viewer's discretion. "WGBH currently creates closed captions for
most major studio theatrical motion picture releases in the U.S., and,
with content provider approval, will convert these captions into the
player-compatible format for The IMS Company," said Larry Goldberg,
director of WGBH's Media Access Group. WGBH will conform the theatrical
captions to airline-edited versions as required by IMS.
Several airlines have previously relied on the closed caption
capability of DVDs to accommodate the needs of deaf or hard of hearing
passengers. "IMS is proud to be the first portables supplier to enable
airlines to meet the needs of their passengers requiring this capability
on an easy-to-use handheld platform," said Gray.
The IMS portable media player (PMP) will store the formatted electronic
text on the hard disc. If the viewer elects to view the captions, he can
activate them via the GUI and the text is then synchronized to the video
using timecode and displayed on the PMP's screen. If the viewer chooses
not to watch captions, they will not be visible, according to IMS'
managing director, content and media development, Michael Childers. The
term "closed caption" refers to text which is accessed at the discretion
of the viewer while "open captions" are always visible.
Captions, as opposed to "subtitles," reflect all of a program's audio
for deaf or hard of hearing people, converting not only dialog into text,
but also sound effects, music, speaker identifications and the like, which
are needed for a more complete understanding and enjoyment of the content.
Subtitles convert the spoken dialog from one language to another for
hearing viewers, and do not include non-speech information.
The World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) and others responded
to the DOT Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by explaining that IFE systems do
not have the same capability as broadcast television to provide closed
captions. Citing the cost of converting existing IFE systems to
accommodate captions versus building them into future systems, WAEA sought
to defer the DOT requirements for implementation in emerging systems.
Responding to the concerns expressed by airlines and IFE industry
groups, the DOT announced in May 2008 that it would defer the requirement
for an undetermined time, citing the work of WAEA's Digital Content
Management Working Group (DCMWG) and its 0403 Specification as evidence
that the IFE industry is migrating toward digital solutions that would
facilitate closed captions in future IFE systems. The DOT will "shortly"
issue a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) to gather more
information on the capability of emerging technologies to provide a
About the Media Access Group at WGBH
The Media Access Group is a nonprofit service of Boston public
broadcaster WGBH, with offices in Boston and Los Angeles. The Group
includes DVS, which has made television, film and video more enjoyable to
audiences who are blind or visually impaired since 1990, and The Caption
Center-- the world's first captioning agency-- which has made audiovisual
media accessible to audiences who are deaf or hard of hearing since 1972.
The third branch of the Media Access Group, the WGBH-Carl and Ruth Shapiro
Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), is a research and
development office that works to make existing and emerging technologies
accessible to all audiences. NCAM's work on Accessible In-flight
Entertainment systems has been funded by the U.S. Department of
Education's National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research
(NIDRR), under grant number H133G050254.
For more information, go to access.wgbh.org
About The IMS Company:
Founded in 1996, The IMS Company is an entertainment and communications
solutions provider in the travel industry serving planes, trains and
automobiles. The Entertainment Group has a focus on portable
entertainment, wireless communications, and content management services,
while the Engineering Group focuses on systems and software development.
Historically, the company's core business is the provision of advanced
systems and software engineering support to aerospace companies in the
development and deployment of the latest in in-flight entertainment, cabin
avionics, and media distribution systems. IMS has expanded into the
provisioning of content services and hardware solutions for business
aviation, rental car, rail passenger, and related markets reaching the
traveling public. In 2007, IMS was named the 24th fastest-growing
privately-held company in technology-heavy Orange County, California by
the Orange County Business Journal. See: www.imsco.us.com.