Centre de Recherche Informatique de Montréal (CRIM) this year scored a CANARIE IWAY award for its work in closed-caption technology.

The ninth annual IWAY

(Information Highway) awards honouring outstanding contribution to Canada’s information society netted winners in the categories of adaptive technology, application of technology, community service, new technology development and public leadership. The awards were handed out in a ceremony on Monday.

CRIM walked away with the adaptive technology award for designing a prototype integrating voice recognition for the simultaneous closed-captioning of newscasts and public-interest broadcasts for Québec-based TV broadcaster TVA.

Although CRIM says several applications on the market fulfill this role, including ones by AT&T and MIT, none is geared towards Canadian French. According to CRIM, the majority of French TV broadcasters are unable to provide real-time closed captioning of their telecasts because of a lack of high-performance technological tools.

Moreover, this technology has traditionally been based on stenography, explained Pierre Dumouchel, scientific vice-president of the Montreal-based research centre.

“”What we have done is we have replaced stenography with a speech-recognition tool instead. We still need an interpreter, something that will re-create everything that has been said (by the announcer), because often…the audio signal is of bad quality, such as a noisy environment when they do a weather report outside on a rainy day.

“”Instead of three to six years’ (training) for the stenographers, it takes 90 minutes to ramp up for broadcast-news quality”” using CRIM’s product, said Dumouchel. He added stenographers are hard to find because Canadian schools educating students in this field are rare.

Cost is also a downside of systems using manual stenotype transcriptions, and can run up to about $100,000 per stenographer per year, he said. CRIM’s program, in contrast, costs $500 per hour. “”It will work out more cheaply than using a stenographer.””

“”Without the project, we would have to spend tens of thousands of dollars per year on human resources in order to meet the requirements of classic transcription methods,”” said Linda Malenfant, director of informational support at Groupe TVA, in CRIM’s nomination proposal to CANARIE.

“”We prefer to invest in the development of a tool that allows us to broadcast the information without having to re-edit the text.””

Because it’s a research facility, CRIM plans to sell its closed-captioning technology to a firm that can commercialize it or will spin out its research team.

Dumouchel said all broadcasters by 2008 will have to offer closed-captioning broadcasts in Canada. The same will be mandated of American media outlets by 2006.

Andrew Bjerring, president and CEO of CANARIE, said about 50 organizations had been nominated this year for the awards, whose winners are chosen by a panel made up of IT industry association members. CANARIE adheres to tough standards, at times choosing no winners in certain categories although there was no shortage of nominees.

This year’s CANARIE IWAY award winners include:

  • Delvinia Interactive Inc. in the application of technology category;
  • Smart Partners of Manitoba in the community service area;
  • iCore in the public leadership field; and
  • National Research Council, which scored two awards for grid computing and applications, and high-performance systems and applications, in the category of new technology development.

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