In May 2022, myNCBI Smart Hub was launched on Amazon Alexa and Google Home devices. One year later, the National Council for the Blind of Ireland and Inclusion and Accessibility Labs are delighted to announce the launch of version 2 to commemorate Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2023.
The myNCBI Smart Hub was originally conceived as a way for NCBI service users to access information on sight loss, NCBI services, podcasts, and audio newspapers and magazines through simple voice commands. Its availability on the popular Alexa and Google Home devices meant it was an inexpensive alternative to visiting NCBI’s offices in person, especially for people living in isolated areas. The decision to make myNCBI Smart Hub a voice application rather than a website or an app was to give users who aren’t as adept with technology an accessible path to information.
The myNCBI Smart Hub received a hugely positive response from individuals all across Ireland who are blind or visually impaired. IA Labs, NCBI, and Cation Consulting – myNCBI Smart Hub’s development team – worked tirelessly over the past year to add new and improved features to version 2:
- Fundraising: A new voice command, “Tell me about fundraising”, gives information about NCBI’s Eye Can lottery, legacy donations, community events, corporate partnerships, and volunteering events and opportunities.
- Video Series: In addition to the existing media on myNCBI Smart Hub is two video productions, the Vision Series and the Adult Services Assessment Procedure. Saying “play a video series” offers users a choice between the two.
- Contact NCBI: Version 1 allowed users to ask for a call back from NCBI staff. The version 2 update also offers NCBI’s direct phone number, as well as the option to be sent a text message or email with the phone number in it.
- Visit the NCBI website: Similarly to the contact number, users can hear the URL for NCBI’s website or ask to be sent a text message or email.
- NCBI article recordings: Audio recordings of the NCBI InSight Magazine, NCBI Labs Technology Newsletter, and NCBI blog posts are now available in version 2.
- Choose a Talking Newspaper by title: Up until now, NCBI Library users had to choose a genre, then listen to articles from different newspapers and magazines in that genre. Version 2 allows users to choose a specific newspaper or magazine they would like to hear from.
Google has discontinued all Voice Actions, but myNCBI Smart Hub is still available via Amazon Alexa and it continues to be an innovation in the field of disruptive technology. It has even been shortlisted as best in this category at prestigious technology awards like the Spiders 2022 and 2023.
Kyran O’Mahoney, NCBI CTO and IA Labs CEO said, “With the myNCBI Smart Hub Version 2, NCBI will once again push the boundaries to demonstrate that technology is the biggest enabler for people who are blind or vision impaired. The Smart Hub has quickly become a staple in the lives of many of our service users and with Version 2, we are hopeful that more people will learn what is possible with this technology.”
IA Labs continues to work closely with NCBI and Cation Consulting in the voice technology field, and plan to white-label this voice app for the use of other charities at a fraction of the original development cost. With these improvements, we hope that myNCBI Smart Hub will increase its positive impact on NCBI service users and remove barriers to accessing information and material.
If you have further questions or need help with any digital accessibility issue, please don’t hesitate to contact IA Labs. To read more on the work we do to make the technology world more inclusive of people with disabilities, or to find out more about how to use myNCBI Smart Hub, you can visit the following links.