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IBM tech targets baby boomers

Big Blue will reuse devices it developed for the disabled to tap into the needs of the growing number of graying PC users.

IBM will reuse technology it developed for the disabled to target baby boomers who are entering their 50s and 60s.

With 7 percent of the world's population over 65 and 76 million people born during the baby boom, Big Blue is looking to tap into the needs of the growing number of graying PC users.

IBM Global Services will create eight new services and a team of 140 services professionals who will work on technology to aid aging computing users, such as making it easier to read a Web page or listen to a Webcast.

"The braille keyboards available to visually impaired users a generation ago have evolved into hands-free technology, something that anyone who uses a cell phone while driving a car can appreciate," Ralph Martino, vice president of strategy and marketing for IBM Global Services, said in a statement. "All of us benefit as computers and technology become easier to use."

Voice-activated applications, better tracking devices, closed captioning and on-screen keyboards are just some of the technologies that have evolved from helping people with disabilities to encompass aging computer users as well, IBM said.

IBM's Home Page Reader uses text-to-speech technology to "read" Web pages for the blind, and the IBM Easy Web tool changes colors and text on Web pages so those with poor vision can more easily view them.

Another set of tools allows business users to customize the audio, text and slides of a presentation to aid people with poor hearing and sight.

Such products are helping meet the demand of aging boomers who now need reading glasses to see or whose hearing is diminished. Also, the products help companies comply with government standards aimed at helping the disabled in the United States, Europe and Japan.

IBM will offer specialized support services for companies to help older employees more easily use corporate hardware and software. Big Blue also will offer its Netscribe technology, which can automatically caption presentations. The company currently has joint-study agreements with 10 universities, which are using Netscribe to automatically create captioning for lectures.

CNETAsia's staff reported from Singapore.