Þjónustu- og þekkingarmiðstöð fyrir blinda, sjónskerta og einstaklinga með samþætta sjón- og heyrnarskerðingu

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The National Institute for the Blind, Visually Impaired, and Deafblind in Iceland recently received recognition as part of The Public Sector Innovation of The Year Awards.

The National Institute for the Blind, Visually Impaired, and Deafblind in Iceland recently received recognition as part of The Public Sector Innovation of The Year Awards. The National Institute received the recognition for innovation in service and the structure of service concepts in practice.

The awards are awarded by the Ministry of Finance in cooperation with The Association of Directors of Government Institutions, The Association of administrative and financial directors of municipalities in Iceland, The Association of Local Authorities in Iceland, University of Iceland´s Institute of Public Administration and Politics, The Icelandic Center for Research and Innovation Center Iceland. 

"The National Institute for the Blind, Visually Impaired, and Deafblind was established in 2009.  The main goals of the institute are rehabilitation, education, and counseling. The main concept of the institute is to service clients, their families, teachers, and other in their immediate environment.  Services take place in the environment that the client is in and are based on his/her wishes in the home, school, and workplace, and are aimed at encouraging participation, reducing social isolation and increasing independence. At the institute, individual service plans are based on the client´s own needs and abilities. This high service level and service methodology, about preventive services where a public institution shows the initiative to contact clients and ensure services, counseling and rehabilitation has created awareness and satisfaction amongst clients. With the establishing of the institute, services for the blind, visually impaired, and deafblind have increased considerably and the independence of clients has increased”.

In their review, the selection committee notes that they believe the organization of the services to be outstanding and based on theory of independence in services for individuals with special needs. The practical aspect of services which are based on the client´s own actual needs can be seen in reality to have produced exceptional results which have led to a fundamental change for clients and their support system. The project and the concept of service is very important to the clients, it has public value and has already shown a measureable result. This theory of service can be implemented in other areas of public service.

 

Karl and Dóra: New Icelandic Text-to-speech voices

An important milestone in the text-to-speech project on behalf of the Icelandic organization of the visually impaired will be introduced on the 16th november 2011. The milestone is entitled: “New Icelandic text-to-speech, a public property – improving quality of life – Icelandic language cultivation.” The milestone involves the trial of a new text-to-speech voices, Karl and Dóra, which will be played for the first time publicly. Ms Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, patron of the project, will launch playback of the voices during a gathering in the house of Icelandic organization of the visually impaired at 2pm.

Agreements were signed with the polish company Ivona for the construction of a new icelandic text-to-speech last spring. Recordings of selected text fragments that were specifically selected from a 250 million corpus, took place this summer. The recordings are then used to construct a test version (beta) of the new Icelandic text-to-speech. This test version will now be used by a group of users and experts who will comment on the recital, with necessary corrections and adjustments. The comments will then be used to optimize the text-to-speech until til sounds as close to a natural recital as possible.

One of the project experts is Eiríkur Rögnvaldsson, a professor of Icelandic at the University of Iceland. He had this to say about the test version:

“Straightaway in the first sound examples, both Karl and Dóra sound better than previous icelandic text-to-speech. Of course there are still some things that need improvement, especially regarding pronunciation of compound words, numbers and abbreviations. However it has always been known that a variety of optimization would be needed and because of that was given time for testing and improvements. The quality of other text-to-speech from Ivona suggests that it will be possible to rectify these errors in the final version. By springtime, were expecting a two voice icelandic text-to-speech wich is compatible with good foreign text-to-speech and can read all usual icelandic text seamlessly with normal intonation.”

Kristinn Halldór Einarsson, chairman of the Icelandic organization of the visually impaired and project manager of the text-to-speech project says:

“The test version of Dóra and Karl sounds really good and is according to the expectations of those who were most optimistic and is far beyond the expectations of the most cautious. The Ivona men have expressed great satisfaction with the outcome and seem confident that once construction is complete, two icelandic voices will be among the best know text-to-speech in the world today”.

Construction of the text-to-speech is inteded to be finished by may 2012 and then the installation process for users will be able to begin. The new icelandic text-to-speech will be free of charge for all of those who have a diagnosis that they cannot read by conventional means, such as those who are blind, visually impaired, dyslexic and handicapped.

Since the new icelandic text-to-speech is constructed to operate on most of the computer equipment that is used today, he can have a major impact on the quality of life of those who cannot read by conventional means. In addition, the text-to-speech will have a positive impact on services such as The Icelandic Library for the Blind and The National Institute for the Blind, Visually Impaired and Deafblind.

Ivona

The polish company IVONA software specializes in development and construction of text-to-speech technology. Text-to-speech is a software that converts text to speech. Text-to-speech can be run on various hardware such as computers, notebooks, phones, ATM’s, MP3 players etc. The text-to-speech from Ivona has won many international awards and the company is recognized as the leading manufacturer in this market when it comes to offering the most accurate and the most natural reading and the best listening quality. Ivona offers a wide range of text-to-speech solutions. These are solutions for those who cannot read by conventional means, for business, various telephones and communication solutions, solutions for smartphones (Android and Ipod) and home use. The company is continually developing new solutions in line with new technology. Ivona has always placed great emphasis on accessibility. Ivona is in cooperation with organizations for the blind and visually impaired around the world, including one of the largest associations of blind and visually impaired in the world, RNIB (Royal National Institute of the blind), the british organization for the blind and visually impaired and the DAISY organization.

Technical information about the text-to-speech from Ivona

Supported Oss

·         Linux

·         Windows

·         Mac OS X

·         Solaris

·         Android

·         FreeBSD, OpenBSD

·         Windows Mobile, Windows CE

·         iOS

·         MeeGo, ST Linux

·         Windows Phone 7

 

Standards compliance

·         SSML, PLS

·         SAPI

·         MRCP, MRCP v2

·         IPA, X-SAMPA, Navteq™, TeleAtlas™

·         Lip-sync / Viseme

 

Supported HW platforms

·         x86 (32/64 bit)

·         ARM 7, 8, 9, 11

·         Strong ARM

·         X-Scale

·         Sparc (32/64 bit)

·         PowerPC*

·         MIPS*

 

Supported API

·         IVONA C/C++ API

·         IVONA Java API

·         Android API (apk)

·         TCP/IP

·         Unix socket

·         SAPI 4, SAPI 5

·         Web Services (SOAP/REST)