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September 14, 2023

How Technology is Making Entertainment Accessible to All

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Technology has ushered in a revolution in the world of entertainment in this digital era. One person’s experience of theatre is different from the next. Like any piece of art, how we enjoy and interpret what happens on stage comes from our own unique perspective. There has been some provision at theatres for deaf audiences in recent years, including signing, hearing loop inductions, infrared systems, and captioning screens either on or near the stage. These aren’t common, however, and for some shows, captioning is often only visible in a limited number of seats and involves looking away from the main action. It can occasionally be distracting for other audience members or performers, too. In this article, you can explore how technology is achieving this remarkable feat by delving into various subtopics that illustrate its impact.

Streaming Services

There is a vast collection of movies and TV shows, such as streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney to anyone with an internet connection. This has given access to content by eliminating the need for expensive cable subscriptions or physical media. The film and television industry has undergone a massive transformation during the last several years. Now, viewers can enjoy programming streamed into the palms of their hands at any time and any place. It is possible to license content that, in previous generations, would have already completed its life cycle in this new market. Music, dating back decades can be downloaded by the album or song or streamed via subscription. Content to be revised and re-sold, such as discontinued television series, which are now accessible in every country in every language in the world.

For content creators and distributors, streaming technology creates a wide range of opportunities. On-demand, the exponential growth of all types of video and music streaming platforms presents many new challenges. Media and entertainment companies must manage and maximize their content libraries to tap into these new revenue streams. Legacy systems such as spreadsheets are becoming incapable of handling the workload.

Bringing smart captioning glasses to cinemas

Technology is making it easier to provide closed captions and subtitles for videos and movies. It also can be beneficial for non-native speakers and people in noisy environments. Now Suffolk and his team are looking at taking this assistive technology into cinemas for National Theatre’s live broadcast and for use by cinema audiences more broadly. And also, they hope to work with the subsidized arts sector and potentially the West End to get the glasses used in many more venues. The theatre is also working on audio descriptions for blind audiences and those with sight loss excitingly.

Audio Descriptions

Audio descriptions provide a narration of on-screen action and descriptions of scenes for the visually impaired. They can fully enjoy movies and TV shows. Now, often, this feature has been included in streaming platforms and apps. The theatre is also working on audio descriptions for blind audiences and those with sight loss excitingly. So, those with vision impairment can directly receive verbal information about what is visually happening on stage.

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We heard from the equally determined Philippa Cross, general manager of Talking Birds Theatre Company at the opposite end of the theatre world, in terms of size and budget. Cross talked about the creation of the Difference Engine at the Google-sponsored, sold-out event. This technology is looking for deaf audience members and those with hearing loss. But, it is also broadening to offer audio descriptions for audience members with sight loss.

Talking Birds and the Difference Engine

The small theatre company frequently puts on shows in unusual venues like monasteries and, recently, a cattle market-based in Coventry. As part of the creative process within such venues, it views accessibility. Such as captioning systems, infrared, and even speaking; the team has experimented with various accessibility options, infrared, and even speaking into a mic from backstage to give audio descriptions. But, they found the options were expensive, and they did not work well in intimate spaces. Talking Birds has been collaborating with Coventry University to develop an inexpensive captioning system delivered through a smartphone app in recent years. That is called the ‘Different Engine’.

Photo credit: pexels.com

Talking Birds aims to enable theatre companies to use the Difference Engine as a downloaded app on a tablet computer eventually. A scrolling script to smartphones during shows would be sent by the app. The company is supplying laptops and Raspberry Pis loaded with the required tech and software to get captions sent to smartphones during shows currently. At the moment, the team is also excited to be experimenting with audio descriptions. With 30 companies trialing it in the last year, there is a lot of interest in the different engines.

Conclusion

Finally, we can conclude that technology has become a great equalizer in the entertainment world. Technology can be shattered by the barriers that once limited access to diverse forms of entertainment. Technology can be made accessible to all. As technology evolves, we can ensure that everyone can partake in and enjoy the vast world of entertainment.

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