Subtitled spectacles

I was at a meeting a fortnight ago of a group that brings together cinema industry guys and representatives from the disability sector to talk about access to the cinema. It was a useful meeting and the highlight came right at end when the man from mentioned some new technology – subtitled spectacles.

The idea is that you wear some special glasses and that the subtitles to the film come up on the inside of the glasses. So only you can see the subtitles. Apparently, RAF fighters already use a similar technology.

The obvious benefit is that the subtitles would not be visible to other people in the cinema. Whilst the UK leads the world in accessible cinema, there is still a lack of choice of films at convenient times for deaf children and adults. Cinemas still tend to show films at ‘quiet’ times when hearing people are less likely to go for fear that they’ll lose too much business if they show such films at more popular times. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this, it makes me think that the existing model of delivering access will never deliver real choice. Hence my interest in technology that allows deaf people to see a film at any time of their choosing.

Has anyone else come across subtitled spectacles? Does it have any potential?


3 thoughts on “Subtitled spectacles

  1. Not glasses, but I’ve used rear captioning in the States. It really is second best. One thing you’ve got to watch with advocating alternative methods (I get your argument above) it suddenly becomes the substitute. I don’t particularly like wearing glasses, and what happens if you wear glasses already – how do you wear x2?

    In the States (DC or Maryland), there was an agreement to ward off legal action to provide rear captioning in cinemas. Rather than open captions, that saw an unhappy deaf community; the service providers became untouchable … they were now providing some ‘agreed’ access.

    Push glasses too much and they will become standard. My other question, why do we treat everything so nicely in the UK? Why isn’t some legal action taken to ensure cinemas show subtitles at more convenient times? Some out of the way time is like forcing a wheelchair user to use the back entrance and to hide from view of the general public. To continue to allow it to happen, endorses.

  2. I’ve been researching this sort of thing for over a year now, My goal is a system that will be completely independent of the theater. It cost over $11,000 USD per screen to install the “rear window” caption system so it’s no surprise there are only about 290 in the entire country.
    Like the previous commenter noted, the current captioning technology has fallen short.

    I’m working on a prototype of a personal caption system. if you’d like more information contact me via email.

  3. As a partially hearing cinema fan myself, the idea of subtitled spectacles is an incredibly interesting one. I have had this very idea myself in the past, although with a slight variation, where the subtitles are ‘hidden’ on the film reel, and the wearing of these special spectacles would ‘reveal’ the hidden subtitles on the screen (this would avoid the odd-looking attachment to the spectacles as per your picture above). Given the large partially hearing population in both the US and UK, I am surprised this idea has not been taken further at a commercial level by the cinema chains, as they would get a massive increase in revenues if partially hearing people attended the cinema? Most odd. Anyway, I note the article above is some nine months old now, and was wondering if there had been any developments since it was written? Also, farmerjoe, what is your email address, as I would love to take up your offer to contact you?

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