New software allows smart caption glasses for the hearing impaired to synch up exactly with theatre performances.
There have been a number of innovations aimed at people with hearing loss. These include a system that translates between sign language and spoken English and ear implants. However, it can still be difficult for those with hearing loss to attend the theatre. Captioning and sign language interpretation is not available at all shows, and can be difficult to see from all seats. Now, the National Theatre (NT) in London is pioneering a way to make theatre more accessible with captioning smart glasses.
The Epson glasses use custom voice-following software to keep track of exactly where the show is in the script. The software also uses lighting, sound and video cues to stay on track. The software allows glasses to display a synced transcript of the dialog onto the lenses. Unlike projected captions, this syncing allows viewers to follow the lines in real time, concurrent with the actors on stage. The size, colour and position of the typeface seen by the user can also be set before the show starts.
The project was developed in an ongoing collaboration between the NT’s technical team and speech and language experts at the University of Roehampton. The glasses will be available via free reservation at all NT venues in London from November. The next phase will be to make the glasses available at productions outside London. This will include productions by Leeds Playhouse and during a tour of Macbeth at venues around the UK and Ireland.