Monday, September 24, 2007

Podcast Covering Web Accessibility

I recorded this Accessibility Podcast a few weeks ago for the Google Developer Blog. It focuses on the overall topic of Web Accessibility and covers some of what I have been building with respect to custom clients for Google Services, alongside a broad range of issues around developing usable applications.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Emacspeak Video Demo: Looking Up The Weather

In the first of a sequence of posts demonstrating live emacspeak user interaction, I'll give an overview of what it feels like to use Emacspeak's powerful Web Command Line provided by its rich collection of web gadgets made up of search wizards and smart url templates

Here are a few things to note about this and all the subsequent video demos in this series:

  • All demos were recorded using recordmydesktop on an Ubuntu laptop running Linux (Ubuntu Dapper).
  • The text-to-speech is produced by the IBM ViaVoice engine, this can now be purchased from a couple of sources in the US and Europe.
  • All demos are recorded with the speech rate at which I use Emacspeak. These demos are primarily intended to show the efficiency of the environment, and slowing down the speech would detract significantly from that goal.
  • Frequent users of text-to-speech will still find the output comprehensible. For the rest, you can match it up with what you see on the screen ;-)
  • Careful listeners will notice some jitter/clipping in the audio --- this appears to be an artifact of using recordmydesktop that I was unable to eliminate.
  • In each of these articles, I'll enumerate the actions I take, and their effect. I'll enumearate actual keystrokes, but I suggest readers focus more on the atomic commands being executed, rather than individual keypresses.

Looking Up The Weather

Looking up current weather is a sufficiently common action where browsing to a weather site, typing in ones zip-code and reviewing the resulting page is three steps too many. This is also why most modern desktop environments provide gadgets that display such live information with minimal user intervention. This first video shows Emacspeak smart url RSS Weather From Wundergroundin action.

Here is the RSS Weather Demo. This is an OGG/Theora video and should play with tools like mplayer. The table below shows a brief description of each user action and its effect.

Access GadgetsC-e uPrompts for gadget
Pick Weather Gadgetrss tabpartial input completes to RSS Weather From Wunderground
Pick Default LocationreturnCA/SanJose
Speaks weather forecast
QuitqStops speech, dismisses weather forecast, and speaks current context. In this case the shell becomes current and you hear the relevant information.

A Transcript Of What You Hear

Users who could see the video half of this demo but were not frequent text-to-speech users reported that it would be useful to see a transcript of what is being spoken. I'm revising this entry to have an annotated transcript. Note that the transcript may not be accurate to the last word, since I'm typing it in by hand; however it should give one a sense of what information emacspeak chooses to speak.

Access Gadgets
The spoken prompt is Resource:.
Pick Gadget
You hear me type RS and then you hear Emacspeak completing my input to RSSWeather. Half way through that utterance, I know it's found the right gadget, so I hit enter, and that stops the utterance RSSWeather half-way through and speaks the next prompt. Notice that you also hear auditory icons to indicate that a prompt input area just opened.
With the gadget now selected, you hear the City/State prompt generated by the weather gadget. It also produces a default location of CA/San_Jose. In the demo, you hear the State/City prompt, along with the default value. I hit enter midway through that utterance, again the speech flushes immediately. The gadget now has enough information to do its work; it pulls the RSS feed from Wunderground, converts it to XHTML (using XSLT) and displays the page using Emacs/W3. Once displayed, it starts speak the forecast you see on the screen.
Here is a rough transcript of what you hear as the weather forecast is spoken. The forecast starts with the words: Conditions 73 degrees F Partly cloudy 4:50pm PDT August 18 ... This is in a lower-pitched (deeper) voice since it was generated from the title of the corresponding RSS item. Emacspeak uses Aural CSS to produce such audio formatted information. The contents of the item are spoken in the default voice starting with the utterance Temperature 73 degrees F 23 degrees C ... Conditions partly cloudy ... When I've heard enough, I hit q to quit.
When I quit the weather gadget, a number of things happen.
  • You hear auditory icon close-object to indicate the weather forecast being dismissed.
  • You hear context information indicating that the Emacs shell buffer has now become current.
  • For this context information, you hear it speak the working directory of the shell buffer and the word shell