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London’s National Theatre Helps Deaf People Watch Shows Using New Techniques | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Attendee Wei Rongjie wears a working prototype of his HoloSeer
AR/VR all-in-one agumented reality and virtual reality headseat, Jan
6, 2016 at the CES 2016. Photo: AFP

London, Asharq Al-Awsat — To help people with hearing disabilities watch theatrical shows, London’s National theater began using the “augmented reality” technology. Epson has developed smart glasses to help people with deafness or hearing impairment to watch theatrical performances. The eyewear displays subtitles in their field of vision wherever they’re sitting.

The CNET website quoted Jonathan Suffolk, the theater’s technical director, saying: “the problem we’re aiming to solve is the lack of choice and customer experience. It’s twofold.” He said, “The smart glass tech gives customers the chance to come anytime they want, matinee or evening, and sit anywhere they want in any size theater.”

The trial will run for a year with the support of tech consultancy Accenture and is part of the National’s wider vision of ensuring theater access for all. The always-on service will run in all three of the organization’s theaters, starting with the Dorfman this month, followed shortly by the Olivier and the Lyttelton.

It will be supplemented by always-on audio description for visually impaired customers by April 2019.

The National Theatre’s experiment marks yet another way augmented reality (AR) is beginning to infiltrate the everyday life.

Unlike virtual reality, in which a headset envelops a viewer in a computer-generated world, AR acts as an intermediary, showing digitally rendered images, think Pokemon Go critters or Snapchat filters.

In contrast with VR headsets, Epson’s augmented reality smart glasses are light and discreet enough to be comfortable throughout a performance. Wearers have the option of changing the positioning, size, and color of the captions to suit their own preferences.