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The National Theatre is trialling smart glasses that display subtitles during live performances


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A theatre company in London wants to make it easier for those hard of hearing to attend live performances with caption-displaying glasses.

The National Theatre (NT) has teamed up with consultancy firm Accenture and technology company Epson to trial special glasses that show live captioning on the lenses during a performance, taking away the need for screens with subtitles in the auditorium.

At present, there are only four captioned performances per production run at the theatre.

The Open Access Smart Capture.
(National Theatre)

However, the NT believes the glasses – dubbed the Open Access Smart Capture – will make it possible for the hearing-impaired to attend any performance and sit anywhere they like.

The glasses will also allow them to focus more on the performance on stage rather than the captioning screen on the side.

The Open Access Smart Capture uses augmented reality (AR) technology and is being trialled for a year while developers continue to work to improve the device.

The AR system was created using Epson’s Moverio BT-350 Smart Glasses.

The Open Access Smart Capture.
(Cameron Slater/National Theatre)

According to the NT, the glasses aim to achieve at least 97% accuracy with their subtitles.

The theatre believes the glasses could be beneficial to 11 million potential customers, based on figures from Action on Hearing Loss that one in five people will be affected by the disability by 2035.

“Since its inception in 2014, the vision for Open Access Smart Capture has been 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 accessible via this new technology,” the NT said in a statement.

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