Marisa DeMeglio

From Dotcom, to DAISY, to DAISY For All, it was a perfect transition

Marisa DeMeglio has been a software developer for the DAISY Consortium since 2001.

Photograph of Marisa DeMeglio When I started working with DAISY, it was 2001 and I had just left the dotcom world. Through a colleague, I was introduced to Hiroshi Kawamura and the Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities (JSRPD). I was given a contract to work on a talking web browser. This was somewhat familiar territory for me, as the software had been developed by a company I had worked for previously, isSound. In that position I had had some exposure to DAISY, at least from a technical perspective. I was invited to Tokyo to get a better understanding of the needs of end users and to learn more about DAISY on-site at JSRPD.

In Japan there was constant activity: DAISY book production, reviewing and testing of tools, meeting end users, and conducting training. The enthusiasm was incredible. When I'd finished working on the talking web browser, I was given an opportunity to start a new project - the development of a kiosk-based DAISY book player. This became the very first version of the Adaptive Multimedia Information System, known today as AMIS. I worked on this project until 2003 and had an opportunity to meet end users and "show off our stuff" at conferences around the world.

One conference in particular that I remember was in Osaka, where we met again with Saori, an organization promoting creative weaving for persons with disabilities and those who are elderly. We received a wonderfully positive response to AMIS and were invited to stay for the Saori fashion show!

AMIS screenshot, Tamil translationThe DAISY for All (DFA) project was established by Hiroshi Kawamura (current President of the DAISY Consortium) in 2003. DFA has been generously funded by the Nippon Foundation since its inception. The primary goal of the DFA project has been to spread DAISY technology in developing countries in southeast Asia, establishing "focal points" (centers of DAISY expertise) and training people in the use of the technology. I was employed by DFA as a software developer to create playback software that would support local languages used in DFA countries. As the second major revision of AMIS was being developed, we led AMIS Localization Workshops to gather language translations for the interface. It was essential to have local language versions of the playback software that could be used with the DAISY books being produced in those countries.

AMIS Localization Workshops were often held at the DFA Focal Point centers in Bangkok and New Delhi, with participants from many other countries participating. This afforded me a wonderful firsthand view of the activities in those countries. As was the case everywhere else I'd been, the enthusiasm for DAISY was tremendous. With each visit, I found the number of people involved to be growing larger. I also saw people becoming more and more involved with DAISY over the years. From Dotcom, to DAISY, to DAISY For All, it was a perfect transition.

Because AMIS is open source software, it is open to collaboration with and use by other projects. I always like getting emails from other developers who see a part of AMIS that might be useful in their own project(s). More recently, working in collaboration with CWI (the national research institute for mathematics and computer science in the Netherlands), we were able to embed Ambulant, the SMIL multimedia player they had developed, into AMIS. This means that the next release of AMIS, version 3.0, will be able to support video and other rich SMIL multimedia in addition to its capability as a DAISY book player. The first beta for AMIS 3 has just been released and we look forward to getting lots of great feedback from our beta testers.

In addition to AMIS, which continues to be my main project, I am also working on the DAISY Lion, which is a web-based system to facilitate creating language packs for DAISY tools. AMIS and Obi will be the first tools which can be localized using the DAISY Lion, and we hope that more follow. Over the past few years I've contributed to the Urakawa project (for DAISY authoring), and, I'm a member of the W3C's SMIL working group and the DAISY/NISO Advisory Committee. All have exciting recent developments: new tools are starting to come out of the Urakawa project; the latest revision of SMIL (version 3.0) will be released very soon and it includes a DAISY profile to represent our needs; the DAISY/NISO Committee has begun to work on the next revision of the DAISY Standard; and DAISY Lion will be used in the upcoming AMIS localization workshop in Bangkok.

My own background is in computer science, which I studied at Penn State. I feel like I got a good foundation in programming and logic design, and I've been lucky that I have a job that allows me to combine that background with a great deal of creative freedom. I'm pretty sure that the other developers appreciate this too, and it's been nice to learn from them as we work towards the goal of making great products.

Thank you Marisa for sharing your story with us.