Hearing loss affects one in six people in the UK. This is no joke: 11 million people hear little or nothing or almost nothing.
This is why the development of Smart Caption glasses in the National Theater in London is great news for deaf or hearing impaired people.
Some sit only in certain sections of the historic theater, close enough to the stage to hear the actors or read their lips. Others have no choice but to cast alternating glances between the scene and a screen with subtitles on the side of the stage. In short, many spectators of the National Theater in London missed out on many details of the performances. And sometimes the salient parts too.
Let's also assume that the National Theater in London only offered two or three shows per season with subtitles, practically 5% of the theater season, and we will have the measure of the disaster.
One theater goer said that missed lines, when the rest of the crowd laughs, creates a sense of isolation among deaf patrons. He is not wrong.
Smart Captions are coming, glasses with embedded subtitles
Smart Captions use voice recognition software and are able to recognize signals from the stage to deliver live captions directly on the lenses of the glasses.
Now that the theater offers these glasses, the shows accessible to the deaf have increased by 80%. The system is still not perfect, sure (pending that LIBS technology become mass) but the result is really flattering.
With Smart Captions, deaf and hard of hearing clients enjoy greater flexibility in the performances they can attend. They simply have to choose the date and time of a show they would like to see, reserve a set of glasses, and then sit anywhere in the theater without worrying about being close enough to hear.
When in Italy?
"The freedom of choice in terms of support, services and access is precious"Said Liam O'Dell, patron of the National Theater. "Hearing impaired people can follow from any order of place, and enjoy a show like anyone else."
It would be nice to find them around us too, right? 12% of Italians are deaf or suffer from hearing loss.
There are 7,3 million people, not crumbs. Yet Smart Captions for subtitles are not even on the horizon on our boot yet.