Improving accessibility is an important priority for Sony Electronics, Inc., (Sony), a leader in electronics for the consumer and professional markets.
During this week’s CSUN Assistive Technology Conference, which is sponsored by California State University, Northridge’s (CSUN) Center on Disabilities, the company will present two sessions. While Sony has been a CSUN exhibitor in recent years, this is their first time presenting at the conference, which brings together speakers from around the world.
“Sony strives for excellence in developing new products and services,” says Mike Nejat, vice president of engineering for Sony’s home entertainment and sound products in North America. Nejat also heads the company’s accessibility efforts. “It’s very important that this technology be intuitive for people of all abilities. Inclusion is not a problem, it’s an opportunity.”
Sony is committed to helping create a world without limitations. Many of their products feature sensory assistive technology to help improve users’ ability to see, hear, and use tech tools.
Currently, 48 million people in the United States have hearing loss. The World Health Organization projects 1 in 4 people globally will have some form of hearing loss by 2050. It’s important to have technology to support the needs of this often-overlooked disability.
Sony’s new technology is poised to revolutionize the listening experience for people with hearing loss. The company has a long-standing partnership with widely lauded hearing technology SonicCloud. SonicCloud’s groundbreaking speech enhancement algorithms enable users who are hard-of-hearing to experience TV and movie content the way filmmakers intended — with crystal speech clarity, and rich, resonant music and sound effects.
The Sony immersive wearable speaker pairs with SonicCloud’s personalization software to deliver TV sound tailored to the user’s unique hearing fingerprint.
“The immersive wearable speaker creates a clear sound, and the reactive vibration helps with the individual audio experience,” says Nejat, who willvirtually present this technology during the “Sony and Accessibility” session at CSUN.
“Working closely with Sony, a global leader in audio and home theater, we have jointly developed a seamless audiovisual experience that personalizes sound for anyone with hearing difficulties,” said Sachin Khanna, CEO at Sonitum Inc. (makers of SonicCloud).
“Together, we have delivered the world’s first truly hearing-accessible TV solution,” says Khanna. “Our collaboration aims to further the mission of bringing affordable, personalized hearing technology to the millions of people with hearing difficulties.”
At the CSUN conference, Nejat will also showcase other Sony accessibility technology, including an MP3 Player, ZX500 Walkman® ZX Series/A100 Walkman® A Series, which features convenient side controls with tactile buttons so the user can easily access play/pause, adjust volume, and change music selection. The device is TalkBack supported by Android™.
Sony’s interchangeable-lens cameras in their Alpha series feature Real-time Eye Auto Focus (AF) for humans and animals. This AI-based technology assists in accurate focusing by enabling eye tracking for both stills and movies, even in cases where the face is partially hidden, looking down, or backlit.
Over the years, Sony has collaborated with the Braille Institute to help make products more accessible to the blind or visually impaired. One outcome of the collaboration is an all-inclusive retail kiosk that has Braille instruction and detailed audio announcements about their products.
Sony televisions also have accessibility functions such as closed captioning; screen reader, so users can check the TV program guide or change settings without looking at the TV; and text enlargement to increase the size of text on the screen.
The company’s BRAVIA TV has built-in Google Assistant to help with hands-free operation, including turning the TV on/off, changing the volume, and searching videos. Their televisions’ accessibility features include voice search, tactile dots on the remote control, audio and video descriptions, and a remote control designed for tabletop use.
Screen time tips
Screen use is up, especially during the pandemic. Consumers viewing digital screens may experience digital eyestrain, such as eye discomfort or vision problems. Symptoms can include dry eyes, blurred vision, and headaches.
Sony recommends following guidance from the American Optometric Association, such as blinking frequently to keep the front surface of your eyes moist; resting your eyes for 15 minutes after two or more continuous hours of technology use; and for every 20 minutes of computer use, looking into the distance for 20 seconds so your eyes have a chance to refocus.
Corporate social responsibility
Sony is a member of The Valuable 500, a global CEO community focused on revolutionizing disability inclusion through business leadership and opportunities.
Accessibility is a major part of their company culture. Every May, Sony celebrates Global Accessibility Awareness Day with accessibility awareness events for its teams in the United States, Canada, Japan, and elsewhere.
The company also created an employee network group known as ACCESS: Accessibility, a Collective Commitment by Employees Supporting Sony. The team advances the needs of people of all abilities and brings awareness to the accessibility features of Sony products and services.
“We created this employee network so we can work together between the employees, the company, and the designers,” says Nejat, who talked more about accessibility products for all consumers in an interview during the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show.
Read more about Sony’s ongoing commitment to accessibility here.