Archive for the ‘tech’ Category

Web technologies I saw at W4A

Monday, June 3rd, 2013


Last month I went to the International World Wide Web Conference for w4a. I saw a lot of cool web technologies and accessibility projects while I was there, so thought I would share links to some of the more interesting bits.

There are too many to put in a single post, so I’ll write a few posts to cover them all.


Subtitles and transcripts came up a few times. One study presented looked at online video, comparing single-line subtitle captions overlaid on the video with multi-line off-screen transcripts adjacent to it.

It examined which is more effective from a variety of perspectives, including readability, reader enjoyment, the effect on understanding and so on. In summary, it found that overlaid captions are generally better, although transcripts are better for content which is more technical.

Real-time transcription from a stenographer at W4A

We had subtitles for all the talks and presentations. Impressively, a separate screen projected a live transcription of the speaker. For deaf attendees, it allowed them to follow what the speaker was saying. For talks given in Portuguese, the English subtitles allowed non-Portuguese speakers like me to understand.

They did this by having live stenographers listening to an audio feed from the talks. This is apparently expensive as stenography is a skilled expertise, and it needs to be scheduled in advance. It’s perhaps only practical for larger conferences.


Conversational Internet at W4A

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

I wrote a thing.

I normally just write code. It’s safer that way. But a change is as good as a holiday, so earlier in the year, I tried writing in English. With sentences and paragraphs and everything.

I wrote a paper to summarise the Conversational Internet project for submitting to W4A, the 10th International Cross-Disciplinary Conference on Web Accessibility. And I’m pleased to say that it was accepted.

If you’re in Rio for WWW 2013 next month, look out for it!

What makes Watson different?

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

I’ve tried to explain IBM Watson to a lot of people this year. A common theme in questions I’ve had has been comparing it to search engines like Google.

Sometimes people ask why one is “better” than another. Sometimes they just ask how they are different.

It’s not surprising. A natural response to learning about something new is to put it into context of things that we already know.

In addition, we describe Watson as a question answering technology and over the last few years many people have perhaps become a bit conditioned to thinking that if they have a question then they can Google for it.

There are many differences between search engines and Watson, both in what they can do, and in how they try to do it.

Here is one example.


I have an iPad mini

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

I am now the happy owner of an iPad mini. Obviously I couldn’t let this happen without a mention. But… the Internet is full of reviews of the iPad mini already and doesn’t need another. 🙂

Instead, I’ll write about the gadget that the iPad will be replacing. The gadget that has been pretty much everywhere with me since I got it three years ago. This is my chance to say goodbye to the venerable Asus T91MT.

The T91MT is a small Windows 7 computer. It’s the size of a netbook, but has an 8″ screen that swivels to switch into a tablet mode. It has a touchscreen with multitouch support and a stylus.

I got it in December 2009, but it feels like I’ve had it for longer than that. It’s fairly beat up by now, so it looks like I’ve had it longer than that, too. I think the stickers are the only thing holding the case together at this point.

I loved this thing. As much as I am now loving the iPad mini (and believe me, it’s sweet), there is a part of me that misses the T91MT.

Why did I love this thing so much?


Talking about Conversational Internet

Friday, November 30th, 2012

I’ve written about some of the talks at Everybody Technology which was an event about how to make technology inclusive.

I gave a short talk there, too. It was about my Conversational Internet project. I’ve written about it a few times already now, so I won’t rehash it here, but I talked about the Extreme Blue prototype and some of the work that’s been done since.

Luckily for fans of funny voices everywhere, it was recorded.

Everybody Technology : Conversational Internet


Everybody Technology

Friday, November 30th, 2012

This afternoon I went to Everybody Technology, an event to discuss the need for technology to be inclusive and made in a way that is “so smart, so simple and so powerful it works for everybody”.

A highlight of the afternoon was Stephen Hawking – perhaps one of the best examples of the power of technology to enable someone to reach their potential. He also supported the event by lending his voice to a promotional video which explains the idea better than I can.

“Who is Technology Made For?” (YouTube)

There were several speakers. I won’t do them justice, but I did jot a few notes…


Conversational Internet : A prototype

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012


We’ve built a prototype to show how we could interact with the Internet using a command-driven approach.

  • A screen reader, but one that uses machine learning and natural language processing, in order to better understand both what the user wants to do, and what the web page says.
  • One that can offer a conversational interface instead of just reading out everything on the page.

It’s a proof-of-concept, but it’s an exciting idea with a lot of potential and we’ve got a demo that shows it in action.

I wrote yesterday about what it was like going to the BBC to talk about a project I’ve been working on this summer. I didn’t talk about the project itself. Here’s an overview.


Using a screen reader

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

What might it be like to read the BBC News website with a screen reader?
I thought this was interesting.

Using a screen reader :: YouTube video

Imagine if you needed to rely on a screen-reader to use the Internet. Seriously – give it a try.

Start the video playing, put the volume up a bit, and *shut your eyes*.

Try and follow along.

What’s it like? Imagine if you’d not seen the page before, and had to try and figure out the structure of the page from what is read out.

Choose a story that you’d want to click on, and without looking, try and work out how many times you’d need to press up/down/tab to get to it.