Friday, September 08, 2006

Ubuntu based Speaking Podcast Player for the Blind

In English.
A special computer with no keyboard, mouse or screen, that plays music and spoken articles for blind people, and also reads aloud the titles so a blind person can select them using a special remote control.

In Geek.
An Ubuntu Linux based MP3 / Podcast player with a simple remote connected to the serial port. No keyboard, no mouse, no screen. Instructions are spoken with text to speech through Festival, and ID3 tags from podcasts are spoken as well. Podcasts are loaded from a CD, but could be automated with bashpodder. The remote is used for controlling the player.

Happy to open-source this if there is any interest. Leave a comment.


Long Version - How it came about.

My uncle Jim, (not really an uncle, but one of those people who has always been there for the family!), he's sharp as a tack, and blind as a bat! (Well not completely blind, but he would not be able to use a computer, even if he had one...)

I was talking to him the other day about life the universe and everything, when he asked me what a blog was..... this led to a discussion on what a podcast was...... this led me to thinking how I could get him to listen to podcasts. The audio tapes he gets from the library and blind foundation are not about subjects that he's passionate about.

I asked him what he would like to hear about..... "travel, woodworking, religion, and world affairs" he said.....

After getting home I decided to make him a "talking ipod", so that he could listen to podcasts and not need to use an actual ipod or a full computer.

Thus "BOB" was born....

Bob is a PII 350, with 96 megs of RAM and a 6 gig HDD.

Bob has a main menu that runs one of two python apps, one is an MP3 player, the other is a CD loading app.

The CD loading app simply copies all Mp3's on a CD into a file on the hard disk, speaking a count-down as it does so, because 600 megs of podcasts can take a while to copy to the hard disk.

The player is a python application that waits for buttons to be pressed and then speaks the ID3 details and plays the tracks.

The remote is in the serial port using a python serial library to get the button pushes, and to set the LED's flashing differently depending on the players state.

Uncle Jim has never used a "real" computer, he does not even own a CD player, I could have got him an MP3 cd player but it would not have read him the ID3 tags, or kept his place when switched off.

If he ever gets broadband I'll setup bashpodder to get the files automatically, for now bashpodder puts his podcasts in a directory on my PC and I'll burn him a CD once a month.

That's about it ! I hope this gives someone else the boost needed to use Linux to help others !


Blogger Jason said...

Good work BB - how is Uncle Jim enjoying the experience? (LS)

11:29 am  

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