The Audio Books application is expected to have a significant impact on the cultural level of older users by making books more accessible, enjoyable and easy to listen to. The application is aimed at helping elderly users overcome the usual physical barrier associated to short-sightedness.

A simple user interface allows the elderly user to select the desired book easily. The system plays pre-recorded audio books for the user. Audio sessions can be interrupted at any time and then restarted at a later point in time from the point it was suspended with the use of bookmarking.

Playing a book on the TV also requires less effort on the part of the user.

The book repository will classify books by author and genre and is held on the VITAS central database. Each audio book is also further organized into chapters similar to a ‘physical’ book.

Once an audio book has been selected, the system will play the audio from the point it was last suspended or exited. Playback will continue until the user decides to stop or the audio comes to an end. This system, along with a manual ‘bookmark’ button is referred to as a bookmark system.

The application also provides additional controls to select another book or navigate through chapters.




The Audio Books application retrieves data via the UCH and UiTV. All text material relating to the Audio Books is relayed to the user interface (UiTV) via the Target Adapter in the UCH. This data is updated as required when the user navigates the application.

At the point that a user has chosen an Audio Book to listen to the Target Adapter returns a URL for the audio media for the book to the UI. The UI uses the Microsoft Windows Media Player API therefore this URL points to an ASX file.

The ASX file contains the location of the audio file (usually in mp3 format) along with details about the media, e.g. author, and the relevant SAMI file. The SAMI file contains the closed caption data for the audio book. SAMI was chosen as it is fully compatible with Microsoft Windows Media Player.

The Audio Book audio is streamed directly from the VITAL Media Server to the UI using the following protocols.


  • Microsoft Media Services (MMS)
  • Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP)
  • Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)


A fail-over mechanism is built into the media server which will switch the streaming protocol if the attempted protocol fails in the order listed above.




Once chosen from the VITAS Main Menu the Audio Books application is initiated and the user is taken to the Audio Books Main Menu.

The menu screen consists of a title describing the page, three navigation buttons and a summary/description area to the right.

The navigation buttons are as follows:


  • Book Title – displays a list books in order of book title
  • Author – displays a list of authors of books
  • Genre – displays a list of book genres available
  • Current Bookmarks – displays a list of bookmarks set by the user
  • What’s new – displays a list of books recently added (within 2 weeks) to the platform
  • Top 50 – displays a list of 50 books in order of most read


The summary/description area displays a text description or summary of the action that will be performed by the highlighted button.

Each button can be highlighted using the left and right buttons of the remote and are selected using the OK button.


VITAS and the VITAL project were co-financed by the European Commission.