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Talking iPods 194

chrisb33 writes to tell us the next iteration of the iPod may talk you through the menus instead of just relying on text. The Scotsman speculates on this new technology based on a patent filed by Apple in the US. From the article: "The patent reveals the idea is driven largely by safety considerations. It states: 'A user will have difficulty navigating the interface in "eyes-busy" situations. Such activities include, for example, driving an automobile, exercising and crossing the street." The patent also makes clear that text-to-speech technology is likely to spread to other hand-held electronic devices such as mobile phones and palm-top computers."
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Talking iPods

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  • Rockbox (Score:5, Informative)

    by FromWithin ( 627720 ) <> on Monday July 10, 2006 @07:37AM (#15690048) Homepage
    Rockbox [] has had this for ages now. It's a replacement MP3 operating system, originally for the Archos machines, but now even runs on the later generation iPods.
  • by lorentey ( 644913 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @07:43AM (#15690065)

    The Rockbox [] open-source firmware for iPods and various other players has been supporting talking menus for ages. (Sorry, the Rockbox wiki seems to be down for the moment.)

    Furthermore, it's free and does not try to lock you out of your music.

    So what's up with the patent?

  • Re:Rockbox (Score:1, Informative)

    by Nocterro ( 648910 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @07:51AM (#15690094)
    Regardless, if the question is one of prior art, then rockbox seems a pretty clear example. No doubt apple will get the patent and then push for legislation requiring all other companies to license it as part of equal rights for disabled people regardless.
  • Re:Rockbox (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mant ( 578427 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @08:19AM (#15690199) Homepage
    AAC is no more proprietary than MP3 and doesn't have DRM. Apple have a music format that is AAC + DRM. I use Rockbox on my iRiver, and while I would never expect it to play something bought from iTunes for all sorts of reasons, no reason why it couldn't play AAC in addition to the MP3 and OGG.
  • by Mant ( 578427 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @08:26AM (#15690235) Homepage

    I expect what they will patent is the system where the computer does the text-to-speech and then loads up the created files to the player along with the actual songs, then the menu system plays them as appropriate.

    So a bit more than just a text-to-speech menu system.

  • Re:Rockbox (Score:2, Informative)

    by Bobsledboy ( 836872 ) <absentgravitas&gmail,com> on Monday July 10, 2006 @08:31AM (#15690253)
    AAC is a well documented standard, albeit somewhat affected by software patents. Fairplay is a proprietary extension upon this standard. From the wiki:
    AAC, which was first specified in the standard known formally as ISO/IEC 13818-7, was published in 1997 as a new "part" (distinct from ISO/IEC 13818-3) in the MPEG-2 family of international standards.
  • by helicologic ( 845077 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @08:50AM (#15690340)
    I worked on a system once that indexed tunes by (roughly) the first derivative of the pitch contour of the melody. The start of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" would be: FDDUUSSDSS, where D=down, U=up, S=same and F=first note. It was startling how effective this method was, with the vast proportion of 5000 tunes or so we looked at being disambiguated in 8 or fewer steps. I'm pretty sure this idea was turned into a product and sold, by Franklin Electronic Publishers, something like 10 years ago. So no, it's not impossible to index songs like this.
  • by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @10:30AM (#15690990)
    Creating an interface that explicitly encourages use WHILE DRIVING is insane, and probably a class-action lawsuit waiting to happen.

    I'm surprised all of those companies that make car radios and CD changers are still in business. Speaking seriously, the best interface would probably be a 5-button remote.

    (1) Play/Pause
    (2) Next song
    (3) Prev song
    (4) Next playlist
    (5) Prev playlist

    I may add that the buttons should be *big* to allow their use while wearing gloves - the profusion of many tiny buttons is one of my peeves about newer cars!


  • by fbjon ( 692006 ) on Monday July 10, 2006 @11:52AM (#15691595) Homepage Journal
    Rockbox [] has had this exact capability for quite a while already. Since 2004-03-14 [] I believe. You can generate speech files for every mp3/etc. file on your device, and it'll get played back when you scroll through lists and menus. Menu items have their own pre-synthesized files, and if there's no file available, it'll spell out the letters of the song.

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