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National Theatre pilots smart glasses

Augmented reality is finding a role to improve accessibility for theatre-goers


The National Theatre (NT) is piloting smart glasses technology to improve access for hearing impaired visitors.

Working with Accenture, the theatre has announced a pilot launch of ‘Open Access Smart Capture,’ which for the first time will allow theatre-goers to view real-time subtitling during live performances.

The NT explained that its vision “is to ensure theatre access for all.”

The Moverio BT-350 Smart Glasses have been designed and manufactured by Epson with “ease of use, durability and accessibility in mind.”

The NT explained that the glasses “enable the user to discreetly see the caption for theatre performances on a screen directly in front of their eyes from any seat in the auditorium. At the heart of this advanced system is new technology which aims to achieve 97% accuracy of the timing of the captions and descriptions.”
Describing the rollout, the NT said that “the vision for Open Access Smart Capture is to have always-on smart captioning systems in all three of the NT’s theatres by October 2018 with always-on audio description by April 2019, ensuring all performances will be fully accessible via this new technology.”
In an exclusive interview with OT, the NT’s technical director, Jonathon Suffolk, explained: “Coming to the theatre for access users can be a clunky process. It is important considering that it is a complex piece of equipment that it works straight away and that people have a seamless experience.”
“One of the interesting aspects of this project is that we have no idea what the potential is,” he added.