Saturday, January 12, 2008

Las Vegas Expo introduces new gadgets to help the visually impaired

Representatives of local high-tech companies are traveling to Las Vegas this weekend for the world's largest consumer electronics show -- an event they hope will be a showcase for some of their products.

The 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show, from Monday through Thursday at the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands Expo Convention Center, is expected to draw 2,700 exhibitors and 140,000 attendees from around the world.

During the show, Melbourne-based Harris Corp. is scheduled to announce what it is calling a "global accessible radio technology" initiative with National Public Radio and Towson University. The initiative is designed to make radio more accessible to hearing-impaired and visually impaired people.

Harris said the technology enables hearing-impaired listeners to "see" live radio content on specially equipped receivers by applying television closed-captioning to radio broadcasts.
The technology also will give audio cues and voice prompts, as well as advanced radio reading services, for visually impaired or blind listeners, according to Harris.

Harris and its partners will demonstrate the radio technology during a news conference at the show.

Other local companies -- including AuthenTec Inc. and Intersil Corp. -- are sending representatives to attend the show, either to exhibit their products or to monitor the latest trends in the electronics industry.

AuthenTec, a Melbourne-based maker of fingerprint sensors, will help staff a group exhibit featuring products that use its sensors.

"There's a variety of cell phones, as well as a personal navigation device, that use our fingerprint sensors," AuthenTec spokesman Brent Dietz said.

Also, Intersil Corp., a California-based maker of semiconductor chips with facilities in Palm Bay, is sending several representatives to the show to scout the latest trends in the electronics industry, said Adam Latham, Intersil's director of communications and marketing.

Intersil's chips are used in various consumer electronics by some big industry players at the show, including Apple, Samsung and Toshiba.

"We're sending some of our salespeople to look around and see the latest technology and see how chips are being used," he said.

Also during the show, the group that includes Harris will detail plans for a new research center for developing future technologies at Towson University near Baltimore. The initiative calls for establishing an international consortium of equipment manufacturers, broadcasters and others to help foster broad adoption of the technology.

Harris is sending about 12 representatives to the show, led by Howard Lance, the company's chairman, president and chief executive.

Harris usually does not attend the annual show, which is geared more to makers of consumer electronics. Harris makes communications equipment and other electronic products primarily for use by government and industry customers.

"We are participating this year because Harris Broadcast Communications has teamed with companies that are consumer-oriented to announce products and services in the radio and television broadcast arena," Harris spokesman Jim Burke said.

That will include an update on a separate initiative by Harris and partners LG Electronics and Zenith Corp. to develop a mobile television system, called Mobile Pedestrian Handheld.

Unveiled in April at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, the system enables television stations to transmit programs to cellular phones, personal digital assistants and other mobile devices.

Harris also will accept a special technical Emmy Award on Monday for developing transmission filters designed to improve digital television broadcasts.


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