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Software Helping Impaired Commuters See and Hear Train Bulletins

NAPERVILLE, ILL (April 18, 2000) -- Speech software from Lucent's Bell Labs will provide commuters of the Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART) with an easier way to both hear and see travel announcements. Now, commuters throughout greater San Francisco who are visually impaired will be able to hear train announcements and those who are hearing impaired will be able to read them.

The system uses technology developed by Bell Labs, called text-to-speech (TTS) software, that converts text messages into natural-sounding voices. With this technology, BART will be able to automate its train information systems across its network of 39 stations.

For example, to announce "the San Francisco/Colma Train now arriving on Platform Two," the BART central traffic controller simply types the information from a main terminal in Oakland and the message is converted into sound and heard over the public announcement (PA) system in Colma. The announcement is also displayed as text on monitors. Previously all announcements were manually read over the PA and went to all 39 stations.

Here are a few typical announcements that BART commuters will be able to hear or read from the traffic controller:

"After reviewing and testing several vendors of speech software, we chose the Lucent system because it processed information more naturally," said A.V. Seshadri, BART project manager. "Lucent's Text-to-Speech system had the best quality and processed names, locations, and difficult words very well, providing clear information to riders."

With the new technology from Lucent, BART will be able to enhance its compliance of the American's with Disabilities Act of 1999 (ADA) which requires the vocal and visual announcements of messages. "We expect to be one of the first rapid transit systems to comply with the ADA and look forward to paving the way for others," he added. BART is a 95-mile system that serves four counties in the San Francisco Bay area.

"Lucent is excited about providing speech solutions that will help make life easier for commuters in the Bay Area," said Dan Furman, president of Lucent Speech Solutions. "With reliable speech technology, BART will not only meet the ADA requirements, but provide a helpful service to the community."

Lucent's TTS software now supports seven languages: American English, Latin Spanish, Castilian Spanish, German, French, French-Canadian, and Italian. Lucent's Text-to-Speech software is reliable and scaleable for small, medium, or large applications.

Lucent also now offers a custom dictionary editor, which can be used to modify the way words and phrases are pronounced, as well as add new words, acronyms or abbreviations. For example, the custom dictionary editor tool will allow BART to accommodate specific street names and locations.

In addition, the tool can be used for any TTS or speech recognition application to handle words or phrases that are unique to a certain industry or dialect. For example, the system can be customized to include acronyms or jargon from the financial or medical industries that aren't found in the dictionary. Because it accounts for accents or language nuances, the new tool also is ideal for companies deploying services globally or to specific regions of the country or world.

Backed by more than 30 years of leading speech research and 140 patents, Bell Labs applications process millions of speech transactions for customers each week and handle over one billion calls per year. Lucent offers a full scope of speech technologies including speech recognition, speaker verification, and TTS.

This information is based on a press release written by Laurie Dobosz and Saswato Das of Bell Labs Media Relations.


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