Smart caption glasses are a revolutionary new way for people with hearing loss to enjoy performances at the National Theatre.
When wearing the glasses, audience will see a transcript of the dialogue and descriptions of the sound from a performance displayed on the lenses of the glasses. Smart caption glasses are the culmination of a 4 year collaboration between the National Theatre and speech and language experts led by Professor Andrew Lambourne.
The theater is testing this pilot program for the technology for all performances, also plans to make the glasses available for all of its performances during the 2019 season.
The headset, manufactured by Epson in partnership with the Royal National Theatre, is heavier than normal reading glasses but much lighter than bulky virtual reality headsets. The lenses look like a typical pair ofglasses, but they fit inside a large gray casing that sits on the sides of your head. When you look through the glasses, closed captions scroll across the bottom of the augmented reality lenses.
(Video by Youtube.)
A handheld keypad is attached to the glasses via cable to allow each user to customize the color, size and position of the closed captions. Changing the positioning of the text is key for user comfort.
The biggest challenge is finding the common spot of balancing the captions in the foreground with the theater performance in the background.
The technology has been successfully used in US movie theaters also, but the Royal National Theatre’s challenges are greater because their performances are live in London.
Campaigners for the deaf caution there is no single device or system that will work for all members of the deaf community, but say the availability of this type of device at every Royal National Theatre performance is as much a game changer as the actual technology.
The former president of the National Cued Speech Association, Sarina Roffé, believes it is a concrete step toward making live performances more inclusive.
“This new technology allows the deaf and hard of hearing to have complete access,” Roffé said. “It’s really amazing how far we’ve advanced and how it has positively affected the quality of life for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.”