The D-Link Boxee Box – good for caption users, a mixed bag for others

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Tuesday, 21 December 2010 12:05pm

The much anticipated media centre Boxee Box has finally been released in Australia, promising a perfect blend of the Internet and the lounge room TV.

While its ability to play content is remarkable, its accessibility features will leave some people with disabilities excited, while others will be disappointed.

The Boxee Box is designed to be an Internet-enabled media centre that can be plugged into any TV. There are three main features of the Boxee Box:

  • Media stored locally, either from a home network, SD card or a USB hard drive
  • Online media access such as watching YouTube clips
  • Applications which can be freely downloaded to provide specific functionality

Due to the open-source nature of the Boxee development, most music and video file formats are supported as are many types of video resolution, up to 1080p. The online content is currently limited for Australians because most of the online services are only available in the US.  However, services such as YouTube can be easily accessed through its integrated searching and viewing functions.

There are currently hundreds of applications available which offer live television streaming, an assortment of video portals, and handy services such as the latest weather information. There is also an ABC iView application under development, so the Boxee Box will certainly grow in functionality over time.

Although the Boxee Box represents great entertainment potential, the device’s accessibility is very mixed. For people who are deaf or hearing impaired, there are several great features about the Boxee Box. Many caption formats currently available are supported including AQTitle, ASS/SSA, CC, JACOsub, MicroDVD, MPsub, OGM, PJS, RT, SMI, SRT, SUB, VOBsub and VPlayer

The Settings menu also provides control over the size of the captions and how they are presented on the screen. This, however, can be affected depending on the design of the application, particularly for content that is not stored locally. In many cases it may be necessary to download the video and its associated caption file first rather than viewing it online.

The options are more limited for people who are blind or vision impaired. There is no screen reader support, with only a navigation ‘blip’ to confirm user interaction. One useful feature is the remote control which features standard buttons on one side and a full tactic QWERTY keyboard on the other so people with limited vision may be able to navigate the Boxee Box easier than many set-top boxes. 

Overall, the Boxee Box is worth considering for people who are Deaf or hearing impaired due to its support for captioned video, but there are currently products with better accessibility features for people who are blind or vision impaired.

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