openAIR – Accessibility in Radioproduction 2012
The Ars Electronica Futurelab was commissioned by Radio FRO to develop a mixing console that’s operated strictly by push-buttons and thus provides substantially more barrier-free operation of a radio station by people with handicaps.
Radio FRO 105.0, Free Radio for Linz (Radio FRO), has been organizing workshops since 2006 at which people with – as well as without – handicaps/impairments can learn the basics of broadcasting. One of the major challenges in a studio is posed by the mixing console and its faders, knobs and switches, some of which have to be operated simultaneously and with great precision. This is a substantial hurdle to master, and one even more daunting for people whose motor skills are limited.
openAIR – Accessibility in Radio Production, is the name of the software & hardware solution the Ars Electronica Futurelab developed. Its 10 push-buttons can carry out a wide array of commands, and the user-friendly software designed without submenus shifts a variety of important functions to push-button operation – for instance, fade in/fade out, muting a microphone and returning it to normal pick-up, and toggling between audio sources. This enables the operator, for example, to fade in four microphones at the push of a button while simultaneously fading out the music, a procedure that would call for handling at least five controllers on a conventional mixing console.
The entire sequence of a live broadcast can also be prepared in advance. You can arrange playlists of the songs you’d like to air, insert slots for live conversations, and determine which functions you’ll need, which means that you can prepare for a lot of the operations called for during the live broadcast of a show and thereby make these production steps much less stressful than when they have to be performed while you’re on the air. In addition to the push-buttons, there’s a joystick instead of a mouse. And like the push-buttons, the joystick is controlled by an Arduino board and allows for very precise manipulation of the computer cursor. This mixing console is already in use in Radio FRO workshops. The system architecture is conceived as open hardware and can thus be copied, modified or expanded by anybody interested in doing so.
Research & Development
Veronika Pauser, Michael Platz, Michael Mayr, Christopher Lindinger, Erwin Reitböck, Vanessa Schauer, Martin Kneidinger