Panasonic New Zealand loaned one of their new Viera televisions for members of Blind Citizens New Zealand Auckland branch to try out. I have had the television for a few weeks to test its functions and to write this brief review. It is great to have some new features that talk on the TV, and I do hope that this technology continues to be developed so that TV can become even more accessible in the future.
Blind Citizens NZ expresses our appreciation to Panasonic New Zealand for making the TV available so we can learn more about the voice guidance features and make this information available to others who might be interested.
The TH-L55DT60Z is one of Panasonic’s newly released Viera series of televisions featuring Voice Guidance. Voice Guidance is a feature that talks some of the television’s functions and menus. This review is not intended as a replacement for the television’s Operating Instructions nor is it a full guide to Voice Guidance. It is simply a review of one blind person’s experience of the television and in particular the operation and usefulness of Voice Guidance. Also, while this is a review of just one model Panasonic has a number of models available with Voice Guidance. Although prices and features vary from model to model, the Voice Guidance features are very much the same for all models. Therefore the comments in this review relating to Voice Guidance will probably apply to all the models available in New Zealand from Panasonic that have this feature. A list of the models with Voice Guidance is given at the end of this review.
Shipping Condition – none of the set up is spoken so you need sighted assistance to set up the television.
The television takes you through the following set up steps:
- Step 1 Link to Wireless Network for Internet – have to enter a password either with number pad or letters on the screen. Not difficult to do, but requires sighted assistance. (The TV can be linked to a wireless network for internet browsing).
- Step 2 Tuning in Channels – it does an auto-tune for both digital and analogue channels, but again sighted assistance is required.
- Step 3 Tutorial on functions of Viera Televisions – starts talking automatically. Go through the steps of the tutorial using the OK Button on the remote control (the OK Button is a small circular button in the centre of a large circle located near the top of the remote control with raised bumps at the top, bottom and sides). The tutorial is only about selecting different home screens – of visual significance only. Note: after the tutorial the television stops talking.
Towards the top of the remote control there is a large round button with raised bumps at the top, bottom and sides, and a smaller round button in the centre of that.
The large button is the directional button and the smaller button in the centre is the OK Button. The bumps represent the up, down, left and right keys. These can be used to move up and down through menus or into sub menus and back out.
There are three curved buttons around the top of the directional button and four small round buttons placed diagonally around it.
The small round buttons are:
- Information Button – Top left
- Exit Button – Top right
- Option Button – Bottom left
- Back or Return Button – Bottom right
- The Up and Down Channel Select Button is a rocker button located on the right about half way down the remote control. It has a bump to identify it from the Volume Button which is next to it on the left.
Turning on Voice Guidance: to turn on Voice Guidance:
- 1. Press the Option Button. To find the Voice Guidance setting press Up or Down slowly using the directional buttons until you hear a beep.
- 2. Press OK to enter the Voice Guidance menu. This menu is spoken even when Voice Guidance is turned off.
- 3. Your currently selected item should now be Voice Guidance. Press OK to select.
- 4. The Up and Down directional buttons allow you to switch between turning Voice Guidance on and off.
- 5. Finally press Exit to return to TV viewing.
Voice Guidance Menu – using the Up and Down directional buttons cycles you through the Voice Guidance menu. This menu enables you to switch Voice Guidance on and off, speed up the Voice Guidance speech rate, set Voice Guidance level (there are two levels of Voice Guidance “Beginner” and “Expert”) and the Voice Guidance volume.
To change any of these:
- 1. With Voice Guidance turned on press the Option Button.
- 2. Find the Voice Guidance settings menu and press OK to enter.
- 3. The first option on the menu turns Voice Guidance on and off, the second sets the speed of the speech, the third sets the volume of the Voice Guidance and the forth sets the user level as either beginner or expert.
- 4. You can enter each option by pressing Right on the directional button or by pressing the OK Button.
- 5. Go back to the menu list by pressing Left on the directional button or pressing the Back Button.
- 6. As you become more familiar with your TV you can change the level of Voice Guidance from beginner to expert if you want fewer instructions.
- 7. Finally press exit to return to TV viewing.
To turn on Audio Description
- 1. Press the Option Button
- 2. Press the Down Button until Voice Guidance says “audio selection ad”, press the OK Button
- 3. Use the Up or Down Buttons until Voice Guidance speaks an item which ends with “AD” and press the OK Button to select
- 4. Press the Exit Button to return to television viewing.
Note: this applies to the channel rather than the programme, so switching Audio Description on will give you Audio Description only if the programme has Audio Description.
Note: changing channel switches off Audio Description, so this has to be turned on each time you go to a new channel (I couldn’t find a way of having it on all the time).
Spoken Features in New Zealand
- Pressing the OK Button when on any channel – Voice Guidance will speak a list of all the channels the television is currently receiving
- Pressing the channel Up and Down Button – Voice Guidance says channel name.
- Pressing the Information Button when on any channel – Voice Guidance says the channel name, current programme title and programme start and end time.
- Pressing the Information Button twice in quick succession when on any channel – Voice Guidance speaks a summary of the current programme. Note: Voice Guidance says “audio description” if the channel provides Audio Description. It does not mean that the current programme has Audio Description.
- Press the Information Button once followed by the Right Directional Button – Voice Guidance says the name of the next programme and its start and end time on the channel you are on.
- Press the Information Button twice in quick succession followed by the Right Directional Button – Voice Guidance speaks a summary of the next programme on the channel you are on
- Pressing the volume Up and Down Button – Voice Guidance says “volume”, beeps and then says a number – the number is the volume number.
What Voice Guidance Does Not Speak in New Zealand
VOICE Guidance does not speak:
- Help (this is an onboard help system)
- On-Screen Programme Guide (unfortunately this is not spoken because of the technology Freeview in New Zealand uses. Should Freeview in New Zealand adopt the same platform for the Electronic Programme Guide as used in most other countries then it will be spoken)
- The Main Menu (Voice Guidance says “Main Menu not supported”)
- The internet.
Note: I was unable to work out how to record programmes or pair the additional Bluetooth remote control which enables someone to control the television by voice commands.
Over All Findings
Once the television is set up the Voice Guidance features are really useful. While it is disappointing that Voice Guidance will not read the on-screen programme guide on New Zealand television, it is great to be able to hear the current programme information and programme summary for the current and next programme on each channel. It is also a shame that it is not possible to have audio description on permanently. However, the audio description feature works well.
The remote control is easy to use – it has fairly large buttons, buttons of various shapes and a number of buttons have “bumps” on to help locate them easier. Voice Guidance has a good quality female English voice that’s clear and pleasant to listen to. I just love being able to know what’s on any channel, when it starts and ends, what’s coming on next and if I want it a programme summary. We must remember that this is the first generation of televisions that have this functionality and hope that it will only improve.
Panasonic Viera Television Voice Interaction and Guidance Models
- TH-P65VT60Z $5,999.99
Voice Guidance Only Models
The above models can be viewed on the Panasonic New Zealand website: www.panasonic.co.nz/products/home-entertainment/viera-tvs.
The Panasonic NZ Customer Care Team can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.