Via Artsjournal last week was an article about the London Short Film Festival using glasses technology developed by the National Theatre to provide captioning to D/deaf and hard of hearing audiences. From what I have been able to determine, the National Theatre started using the glasses with performances in 2018, though they unveiled the project in 2017. Apparently, in the first 6 months, they had 300 people use the glasses, “and more than 10% of these visitors hadn’t previously been to the National Theatre.” The Leeds Playhouse became the first regional theatre in England to use the technology in April 2019.
I have written about the multiple attempts to provide program notes during a performance through various devices, including glasses and phones, that have never really seemed to get off the ground. I don’t know that I have previously come across an attempt using similar pieces of hardware to expand accessibility to a broader segment of a potential audience as with D/deaf and hard of hearing
From the National Theatre’s results, I wondered if a focus on accessibility might be a better initial goal on the road to eventually delivering program notes. The technological challenge of creating captions that not only provide the synchronized dialogue during a live performance, but also the names of the actors, notes on sound effects and offstage noises by cross referencing voice recognition, sound and lighting cues seems like a lot to take on. Anyone who has mastered that probably has tons of insight into folding in all the enhanced, interactive program materials those other projects hoped to provide.
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