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Assistive Listening Technologies and Wi-Fi – How They Work Together

For the more than 360 million people worldwide who suffer moderate to profound hearing loss, venues must create a listening experience that is equal to that available to the general public. It’s not only the right way to accommodate hearing-impaired parishioners, patrons, and customers—it’s the law.

 

Today we’re seeing public demand for listening solutions that extend beyond the traditional assistive listening market. Wi-Fi-based personal listening solutions, while delivering excellent sound quality, are designed for the convenience of the venue—owners and managers no longer need to purchase and maintain devices. Instead, users download an iPhone or Android app to their smartphone and then select the audio channel that corresponds with the video they want to watch in a multi-display setting.

 

While these types of solutions can be used by the general public as well as the hearing impaired, it’s important to note that they were not designed to meet the ADA standards for assistive listening or comparable laws outside of the U.S., which require venues to provide an equivalent listening experience for the hearing impaired. While the audio latency associated with Wi-Fi technology is negligible, it cannot provide an equal experience for people with hearing loss. This limitation combined with the requirement to provide a specific number of assistive listening devices means that Wi-Fi is not an ideal solution for compliance. That said, there are applications where Wi-Fi-based solutions can complement an existing assistive listening system (ALS) that uses RF, IR, or induction loop technologies, giving all patrons or customers the best possible listening experience.

 

How does that work? Let’s take a quick look at the best applications for Wi-Fi based solutions and then discuss when they make a great addition to your assistive listening solution.

 

Applications for Wi-Fi Based Solutions for Personal Listening

Wi-Fi for personal listening is an exciting, emerging area that has a growing list of applications and the potential for many more. We are seeing ListenWiFi being adopted in venues for:

  • Higher education, particularly in student unions, where multiple televisions are available and the student wants to select the audio channel for listening.
  • Corporate fitness centers or lobbies with video walls. Employees or visitors choose the audio channel for the video they want to watch.
  • Museums with multiple video displays throughout the exhibit. Visitors can select the audio channel that corresponds with the video that piques their interest.

 

The Right Listening Options for Any Audience

When you need to provide both hearing and hearing impaired audiences with audio options, adding a Wi-Fi personal listening solution to a venue with an existing ALS can be a cost-effective approach.

 

For example, a theater may offer a movie in multiple languages. As a theater, the venue is required to provide an assistive listening device to any hearing-impaired person. The ALS device provides equal access to the movie audio, but what about translations for the general public? Purchasing transmitters and receivers for the full audience that doesn’t need a device for assistive listening is quite an investment. But adding a Wi-Fi-based solution gives the ability to access different audio channels to anyone with an iPhone or Android device. This cost-effective strategy allows the venue to remain fully compliant and provides options that create exceptional—and equal—experiences for all moviegoers.

 

To learn more about ALS and Wi-Fi solutions and to determine which is appropriate for your venue, please contact us at Sales@listentech.com or by phone at +1.801.233.8992 or 1.800.330.0891 (toll-free in USA & Canada).

Listen Goes On Tour At The Ely Cathedral

The Ely Cathedral is steeped in history. Originally, the site of a monastery founded by a runaway princess turned nun, the cathedral grew from a rather humble site to an awe-inspiring site that covers over 46,000 square feet, including the famous Ely octagon measuring at 170 feet in height and 742 feet in width.

Although the cathedral has had its fair share of pilgrims, it’s highly unlikely that its original purpose was to host bus-loads of tour groups snapping photos of its famous stained glass and restored stonework. Nevertheless, around 250,000 contemporary pilgrimages are made to the Ely Cathedral every year, which makes for some very busy (and possibly hoarse) tour guides.

Cathedrals, while being wonderful places to worship have rather specific challenges when it comes to the subject of acoustics. While some of them offer wonderful places to sit and listen to choral arrangements or reflect on the soul, they aren’t really built to be tour group or tour guide friendly: a small footstep can carry from one end of a nave to the other, mere whispers can echo, and the smallest giggle can be carried from the floor all the way up to heaven. So, how is a tour guide supposed to relay information, without shouting or whispering? And how is a tour group supposed to hear their guide without being shouted at or straining to hear?

Instead of spending pounds of sterling on honey and tea to sooth the sore throats of their busy guides, the Ely Cathedral thought of a better idea to solve their tour acoustics situation, they invested in Tour Group equipment from Listen Technologies. Listen’s Portable RF products allow a tour group user to simply plug into a small receiver that they carry with them throughout a tour, in this case the tour of the magnificent Ely Cathedral. A tour group member can adjust his or her own volume and will receive clear and consistent sound from the guide for the duration, so they don’t have to miss a single word of what’s said, even while other tours are happening simultaneously. The products are also a miracle for the tour guides as they allow them the opportunity to use a normal speaking voice, which is broadcast from a transmitter to each and every tour guest, so there’s no need for tea, unless it’s actually tea time.


Although it’s a place with a past, the Ely Cathedral is definitely looking at the present. Including a little technology from Listen to improve guided tours has made the cathedral a better place to visit, whether a guest is there on a personal pilgrimage or merely there to enjoy the beautiful stained glass.

Capturing and Maintaining a Tour Group’s Attention With the Help of Listen’s Portable RF System

This blog post has been repurposed from an anonymous customer write-up from a university in the Pacific Northwest on their experience with Listen Technologies Tour Group products.

 

We recently became aware of some great things a large state university in the Pacific Northwest is doing with our Portable RF System. More specifically, it’s the university’s off-campus community extension locations using our system. And while we can’t share the name the university at this time, we’re so thrilled with the results they’re achieving we can’t help but share.

 

The university’s extension facilities are located throughout the state and have a mission to “engage people, organizations and communities to advance knowledge, economic well-being and quality of life by fostering inquiry, learning and the application of research.”

As a part of this mission, several locations regularly conduct educational field tours at locations such as apple orchards and agriculture packing houses and processing facilities. Depending on the tour, they are attended by growers, crop consultants, managers of other agricultural facilities and even scientists.

 

The problem with doing tours in such locations, however, is the noise. For example, imagine a tour of a busy apple packing house where conveyor belts and machinery are constantly running. To add to the problem, tours of such potentially dangerous facilities often require attendees to gather in single file lines behind barricades for safety reasons.

 

These are just some of the challenges the university was facing. In an attempt to overcome them, university officials first tried a microphone system connected to a loud speaker. However, they soon found that such a system had two primary faults:

 

First, the sound projected from the speaker was unidirectional, meaning attendees had to stand in just the right place to hear. This was a significant a problem when dealing with a large group or a group that had to be spaced out single file.

 

Second, they discovered that despite the increased volume of the tour guide’s voice, environmental distractions were still an issue. This was particularly true in outdoor locations, such as apple orchards, where it was easier for a group to disperse and hold side conversations.

 

As a result, they went in search of a better solution that would allow guides to truly capture the attention of tour attendees. They found Listen’s Portable RF System.

 

Listen’s Portable RF System is ideal for tour groups. It has the capability to scale from one user to hundreds and can operate across multiple groups; ensuring interference from neighboring systems is kept to a minimum. 

 

The technology is also very easy to use. Tour guides simply clip on a small microphone and transmitter and then set the device to the desired channel. It’s even simpler for audience members, who have to simply slip on a headset that can be pre-set to the correct channel and waiting for them.

 

The technology is very easy to use. In most cases, especially when it comes to portable radio frequency-based systems, it’s as simple as clipping on a small microphone and transmitter and then setting the device to the desired channel. It’s even simpler for audience members, who simply have to slip on a headset that can be on waiting for them and pre-set to the correct channel.

 

With our system in place, the university is now able to ensure that all participants can not only hear every word the guides speak, but that guides no longer have to compete with environmental distractions for the attention of the attendees.

 

More information about Listen Technologies’ Portable RF Systems can be found here: https://www.listentech.com/products/portable-rf.html

Touring Seattle, One Bite At A Time

When in New Orleans, try the gumbo. Visiting Philly? Cheesesteak, of course.  Seattle? Try the Fish! What better way to explore a city than by sampling its culinary masterpieces?

Seattle Bites Food Tour does just that. For three hours, tourists, both vacationers and locals, experience the rich history and culture of Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market while sampling the crème de la crème.

Jan Marie Johnson and her husband, Mark Brietfuss wanted to create a tour that caters to the participant and creates an unforgettable experience. Since 2008, the couple has worked together to build what is “There’s more to the market than just food, fish and flowers,” Jan Marie Johnson said. “It’s not only the culinary heartbeat, but it’s really the soul of what makes Seattle a great city.”

I had the privilege of experiencing the tour first hand with my family this summer as we spent time in Seattle on our way to a family reunion. Meeting just inside the Seattle Art Museum we were greeted by the energetic Anna Oeste, our host for the day. We each received a bag with the materials we would need. Among the napkins, map, and plastic ware was a Listen Technologies receiver and ear speaker.
Anna easily walked us through how to use the equipment while weaving in snippets of what we would be experiencing. As we began walking towards the Pike Place, it quickly became apparent that not only were the receivers a nice touch, but they were a necessity. You see, the market was bustling with activity, but since Anna was using the transmitter, we didn’t miss a single word. And even when we lost sight of Anna in the busy crowd we could follow the directions she relayed.

Braden, my eight year old son, became fast friends with Anna and was by her side for most of the tour! Anna’s easy demeanor and enthusiasm made for a delightful experience. We quickly soaked up the history of the market and sampled Seattle’s finest. Here’s just a taste (pun intended) of what we tried …

  • Lummi Island smoked salmon flatbread with crème fraîche and fine herbs – a culinary masterpiece!
  • Fresh gourmet sausages hand-crafted by a German master butcher.  Sehr Gut!
  • Paris-inspired fruit and Nutella crepes by an Indonesian beauty.
  • “America’s Best Clam Chowder” – just ask New England’s Chowder Hall of Fame!
  • Authentic Mexican tacos or tamales made fresh from a US culinary graduate born and inspired in Mexico City!
  • Decadent Alaskan king salmon, fresh and house-smoked for 12 hours by “The Cod Father”.
  • Mom-inspired chicken Tikka Masala from a classically French-trained South Indian chef.
  • Fresh and exotic produce of the season from our boys on “The Corner”.
  • Seattle’s coffee at its best – expertly sourced, blended and roasted.  Simply Seattle, simply delicious!
  • Special home-made desserts using some of the world’s most unique cooking oils!
Surprisingly enough, one of my personal favorites was from Saffron Spice, a unique Indian food stand. My husband was delighted to see how much I enjoyed the Chicken Tikka Masala. You see, normally I stay away from most could-possibly-be-spicy foods while he loves trying new tastes.
Bree, discovered that she loves clam chowder (she’s a picky eater like her mother!)
Braden loved the last stop, the Olive Oil Balsamic Vinegar Tasting Room, where he learned how to mix specialty oils and vinegar creating tasty combinations.
As their website states this “tour of The Market is more than simply a sampling of big and delicious bites. Seattle Bites Food Tour will share with you the complex and fascinating tales of how and why The Market got started, the heroes that created and saved it and the beloved merchants who have made The Market their home.” Thanks Mark and Anna for a great day and a up-close look at our technology at work!

Wireless Audio Distribution System Brings Ambiance to Historic Downtown

Located just a 35-minute drive or short train ride from downtown Chicago, The Village of Tinley Park is a community that has worked hard to attract prime business and hospitality industry development for the benefit of its residents and business owners.  In addition, village officials have partnered with the business community to revitalize its historic downtown, developing carefully planned incentives to encourage new construction and façade improvements. The construction of an architecturally outstanding train station and an inviting town square has made Tinley Park a popular venue for numerous community activities, attracting visitors from the entire area.

 
To further the ambiance of historic downtown, officials had wanted to provide audio programming to a rather remote location of the village for a number of years. The ultimate goal was to make Christmas music available during the holiday season, as well as audio reinforcement for various presentations by local dignitaries throughout the year. However, due to the isolated location of the courtyard, village personnel were just not able to find an economical solution. One possible approach discussed was the use of fiber-optic cabling over which to route the audio signal. However, the cost of running new fiber alone would have overwhelmed the available budget. Furthermore, the cost of additional equipment needed to perform the analog/digital conversion which allowed for transmission over fiber made the final estimated project cost look quite prohibitive.
 
Adding complexity to an already potentially expensive system, the courtyard was located across a set of busy commuter train tracks from the closest village owned building in which to house equipment. Thus it was not feasible to simply run a new distributed speaker system or fiber network from this building to the courtyard. The village needed a cost effective solution and they needed it quickly since the new holiday season was rapidly approaching.
 
Enter Pace Systems, a full service systems integrator focused on providing design and design/build for a wide range of services. After discussing the issues with one of its key suppliers, Pace personnel decided the best way to approach the situation was to utilize a wireless audio system from Listen Technologies Corporation. The supplier had seen the effectiveness of distributing audio via FM wireless firsthand. They were familiar with an installation at a local zoo which had utilized a Listen FM wireless system for the distribution of audio program material to each of the animal exhibits.
 
Utilizing this information, Pace was able to design a Wireless Audio Distribution System utilizing Listen’s LT-800 Stationary FM Transmitter and LR-100 Stationary FM Receiver/Power Amplifier.       
 
Getting the audio out to the courtyard was only the beginning of the process. The signal was then translated to sound via several Electro Voice loudspeakers. Electro Voice was able to supply speaker systems that were weatherproof enough to survive the harsh Chicago land winters while still providing pristine audio quality. The small 4.2” satellite speakers were also small and unobtrusive when installed. This was an important consideration since village management desired to keep the visual impact of audio equipment to a minimum. The LR-100 receiver/power amplifiers were installed in a weatherproof, heated enclosure which kept the audio equipment at a comfortable operating temperature.
 
Installation of the wireless system turned out to be a breeze. Once power was run to the new enclosure, Pace engineers merely installed amps, transmitter, receivers and speakers, and the would-be complex installation was nearly licked. The only adjustment needed was to lower the power of the remote transmitter residing in the local building since it tended to overpower the mic transmitter used for the village’s holiday celebrations.
 
Once the installation was completed, village employees were quickly able to pipe Christmas music over the tracks to the courtyard speakers. Citizen feedback toward the added audio programming was enthusiastic and positive. The village was so impressed with the solution that talk has even started regarding an expansion of the wireless network out to the local farmers market at some point in the future.

 
 

Disneyland Unveils Enhanced Technology For Guests With Visual Disabilities

Beginning July 6, guests with visual disabilities will be able to explore Disneyland Park in a whole new way through an enhanced Disney-designed device that provides detailed audio description of outdoor areas. This feature compliments the audio description inside Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks’ attractions and theaters that was launched over a year ago. 
“Disney Parks have long been at the forefront of providing accessibility for guests with disabilities,” said Greg Hale, chief safety officer and vice president of Worldwide Standards and Auditing for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. “We are pleased to build on this legacy with new technology that enables us to do something that has never been done before – provide rich audio description in moving attractions and outdoor environments.”
The enhanced audio description service adds more options to the existing device including:
  • Descriptions of outdoor locations throughout Disneyland Park.
  • An interactive audio menu that allows guests to choose the type of information they would like to receive about outdoor areas – from a description of their surroundings to information about nearby attractions, restaurants, and entertainment.
The 7.2-ounce handheld device continues to offer Disneyland Resort guests:
  • Detailed audio description of key visual elements, including action and scenery, for more than 20 attractions at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks.
  • Assistive listening for guests with mild to moderate hearing loss.
  • Handheld captioning that enables guests to read captions while enjoying specific attractions.
  • Activation of closed captioning on pre-show video monitors.
“I know of no other public space in this country, or anywhere else for that matter, that is as welcoming and accessible to people with disabilities as Disney’s theme parks,” said Larry Goldberg, director of the WGBH National Center for Accessible Media in Boston, which is considered a pioneer in developing multimedia and new technologies that make media accessible for the disabled. “With their captioning systems for guests who are deaf or hard of hearing and now outdoor environmental description for guests who are blind or visually impaired, Disneyland Park is now more inclusive than ever. WGBH is proud of our role in helping make this happen.”
WGBH teamed up with Disney to deliver outdoor audio description, marking the latest collaboration between the two organizations that began with the installation of WGBH’s Rear Window® Captioning system in Disney’s theater-based attractions in 1996.
Disney has patented and licensed the assistive technology that could serve a wide variety of retail, commercial and industrial applications. The technology is already being used at the World of Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta, The Hall at Patriot Place in Boston and the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas and was awarded the National Society of Professional Engineers 2010 “New Product Award.”
“We are particularly excited to make this technology available beyond Disney Parks and extend accessibility where it was previously impractical,” added Hale.
Other examples of Disney Parks’ services for guests with disabilities include:
  • Accessible experiences – Disney Parks’ focus is on providing guests with accessible experiences, from vehicles at The Little Mermaid-Ariel’s Undersea Adventure that enable guests to remain in their wheelchair during the ride to American Sign Language interpretation at live shows.
  • Pamphlets for guests with disabilities – Disability-specific pamphlets, including one for guests with visual disabilities, provide an overview of services and facilities available for guests with disabilities. Braille guidebooks also are available to assist guests with visual disabilities during their visit.
  • Resort access – Disneyland Resort hotels offer special equipment and facilities for guests with disabilities such as phone text, visual indicator door knocks and sloped-entry pools.
The handheld assistive device is offered at no cost with a refundable deposit at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort theme parks. For further information about services for guests with disabilities, guests should visit www.disneyland.com  or call 714-781-7290.
*U.S. Patents 6,785,539 and 7,224,967 may apply.

Listen Tour Group Makes A Splash At Sea World

Sea World – Orlando – AV Technology Tour, InfoComm 2011

“I provide Listen FM receivers all the time for assistive listening. I didn’t know you have these portable transmitters for tours. This is great,” said one participant on our AV Technology Tour of Sea World Orlando.  
 
Fifty InfoComm 2011 attendees visited Sea World’s behind-the-scenes Audio Visual and stage production specialists and as a bonus, we enjoyed the Shamu and dolphin shows. As a co-founder of Listen Technologies, I was fortunate to be the Listen representative tagging along to distribute our products for the tour and to manage the lightweight belt-clip transmitter and microphone for each Sea World expert; people such as stage managers, engineers and audio/video control room specialists.
 
These Sea World representatives were delighted to show off their facilities to A/V industry peers, but were initially hesitant when we got off the bus with Listen’s FM transmitter and receivers, expressing concern that our system may interfere with their microphones.  No worries.
listen-tour-group
I assured Sea World personnel that the system is on the 72 MHz bandwidth for assistive listening only. Several audio experts in our group relayed the same. It took only two minutes once the first stage manager began using the transmitter and microphone for him to realize how valuable, and in this case, how essential, the devices were for communicating with a group of fifty people. We were dealing with an amusement park’s high ambient noise level, mobility, and, as a side, sweltering summer heat!
 
Walking across the park from attraction to attraction, our guide was able to instruct the entire group information such messages as: We will wait in the shade while those that need to can take bathroom breaks.  
 
Both the Sea World employees and our tour group grasped the benefits of a listening system quickly and embraced the enhanced experience of the Listen Tour Group System. It had become a necessity for all to hear the specialists speak. 
 listen-tour-group-sea-world
One feature we didn’t use because we stayed on Channel “D,” was Listen’s channel flexibility.  If a Listen Tour Group System has an interference problem on the pre-selected channel in a new location, or in an impromptu tour, both the guide with the transmitter and the guests with receivers can easily tune to another channel to eliminate any interference problem. This type of flexibility is just one of several nice features of Listen products.
 
Sea World tour participants, including myself, had the great opportunity to ask questions of the people behind the scenes, visit the control booth at the Shamu show, ask technicians questions, and in between, be entertained by the actual performances. 
sea-world-listen 

I’m not sure who enjoyed the tour more: the tour participants or the Sea World experts. I came away, as always after 13 years of experience participating internally with Listen as a co-founder and a member of the board, once again impressed with Listen’s product quality and more importantly, the quality of the tour presentation when all can clearly hear what the guide is saying. I am very proud of these products and of Listen’s culture and customer service.

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