By Kimberly Turnage
I love technology! Take me to the Apple store, and I'm in heaven. The packaging is inviting, and the marketing promises the sky. !Que rico! Needless to say, I have a ton of gadgets, computers, cables, and accessories. I don't just like technology, I like it to look good, too: My stenomachine is hot berry pink. If it is lighter and faster than the model before, I'm whipping out the cash!
So imagine my delight when Wim Gerbecks, Sander Pasveer, and Gea Duister invited me in on a little secret during the first European Congress of speech-to-text writers. The 'boys' had developed a new piece of technology that would radically change how we work with presenters in displaying our live communication access services.
"Shhh, Kimberly, come here. Can you keep a secret?" Gea's eyes are asparkle and her grin mischievous.I look over one shoulder and then the next. My voice low, "Yeah, sure. I can keep a secret."
"We're going to unveil something really cool during the ECOS plenary - a first, and we'd like you to help."
"Do tell, Gea, do tell." I can't help it. I giggle."It's called ' Text on Top.' While you write live realtime, we are going to display it on the same screen as the PowerPoint presentation!""Say what?! No way!" If I wasn't in before, I was both feet in it now.
For more than 20 years, CART providers and STTR providers have been trying to find a cost-effective, simple way to display our live text on the same screen as the presenters we are visually echoing. It would be so much easier for our consumers if they didn't have to get whiplash while receiving access to their information. The best most of us have been able to do is the live broadcast setup with an encoder. It isn't cost-effective and requires testing long before the actual event. And time is not a luxury we are often afforded while working large conferences or going from classroom to classroom with too few minutes to spare.
Such was the case during a technology seminar for young, up-and-coming technologists. After two days of being in the same room - a simple one-on-one setup - the organizers decided it would be great if the whole group changed rooms at the last minute. So, I scramble to pack up all my equipment, cables, and bags to go up three flights in Tower A, scramble over to Tower B, and up another three flights. I arrive in the room as the speaker is beginning his presentation and find my client front and center in the first row packed in between his colleagues. No room for my setup or me. I don't exactly panic, but I do stop for a moment. Do I try to squeeze my way in and move people around and disturb the flow of the presentation? Ummm, no, that's not good. Do I allow my client to try to lip read? Ummm, no, not good either. Ooohhh, wait a minute; I have the Text on Top devices with me. I had only received the devices two days before, and the testing had been cursory. Nothing like being under the gun with barely tested technology. I must be crazy or desperate. I quietly ease in behind my client, plug in the TOT USB device into his open computer, waited a moment for the USB to auto-launch, and double-clicked on the TOT software contained on the USB device. I selected 'Presenter' and walked to the back of the room where I had placed my equipment. I popped the second TOT USB device into my computer, repeated the process, and selected 'Speech-to-Text Reporter.' Three minutes later, the client had live realtime displayed on his computer. They thought I could do magic. I was quietly sending many thanks to Wim and Sander for their technological alchemy.
I'm not the only one. STTR providers throughout Europe have ordered and begun to use the TOT in all types of environments. Reporters from all over the globe were calling it revolutionary during an impromptu demonstration Gea and I did over lunch at the IPRS meeting in Prague late September, early October. Gea using her Velotype, wrote in Dutch, then switched to Offline Mode, and I and my Infinity took over seamlessly in English, outputting to the same display Gea was only moments before writing Dutch onto. Lecker!*
You're thinking, “This is great; I'm excited, I think I might even want it. But can I customize the output per my clients' visual preferences?” Yes, you can. Each TOT device can be customized individually in full screen mode. The font size, type, and color can be set however you wish. Even the font outline color and width can be adjusted, as can the background color. For text displayed on the same screen as a PowerPoint or other presentation/video, you can set the line numbers to 2, 3, or 4. "Captions" can be placed at the Top, Below top, Bottom, and Above bottom. You can justify the text left, right, or center, and when necessary, you can also clear the text from the screen or put the text into Full Screen Mode once the presentation or video has been completed. You can even have multiple display screens, each with their own position/color/font settings. But wait, there’s more.
TOT also has a scripting feature just like our broadcast captioning software. It's perfect for lyrics to songs, pre-scripted presentations, or for videos that may not have been previously closed captioned.
TOT has features similar to MSWord's short forms and auto-correction functions. You can define your own list of auto-correct words and even create text briefs right in the TOT software - quite useful when I didn't want to switch between my TOT screen and my CAT software screen.
One other nice little feature that I discovered by accident is that TOT on the client's screen will immediately start after the computer has been closed and put into sleep mode. If a client closes his or her computer, the communication access provider can start writing even if the laptop is still closed. Whenever the client is ready again, all that is needed is for him or her to open the computer, and the CART is instantly streaming.
Text on Top is a simple USB radio device. One needs less than five minutes to set it up and begin writing. There is no software to load on the reporter's computer, no software on the user's computer, as it is all contained and executed from the USB device - a definite advantage when working with government, corporate, and private presenters' computers. And at prices starting at 199 euros a set - very affordable; an anomaly within our industry. I think Text on Top would make a great stocking stuffer this holiday season!
*Lecker is Deutsche for delicious ;-)
Kimberly Turnage is a communication access provider located in Hamburg, Germany.
Notes: Text on Top works on both Windows and Mac computers. The five-minute setup rule mostly applies to Windows machines. Apple devices accept the USB almost instantly.
Text on Top is in the final stage of development. It becomes available in October 2012 for the European market only. This limitation is due to the radio frequency that is being used. Devices for the U.S. market is still under development but is expected to be available in November 2012.
For more information on Text on Top, visit http://www.Text-on-Top.com/Text-on-Top.php