Helping more hard of hearing theatre goers enjoy world class theatre

The National Theatre (NT) in London is known around the world for broad and inclusive programming and they take accessibility seriously. It’s estimated that one in five people in the UK will be affected by hearing loss by 2035. Previously deaf, deafened and hard of hearing visitors of the NT could attend live captioned performances to help them follow the dialogue on stage, but the service was limited to a few performances per production. Additionally, the positioning of the caption screens made focusing on the stage and the captions at the same time a challenge. The NT recognized that there must be a way to offer more freedom, choice and options to theatre goers, so, they set out to find a better way of bringing their exceptional performances to larger and more diverse audiences.

Accenture & National Theatre – A Transformational Innovation

Augmented reality technology from Accenture and the National Theatre has transformed the theatre experience for audiences with access needs. See more.

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Strategy and Solution

Augmented Reality rewrites the script for audience accessibility

As the NT’s Partner for Innovation 2017-2020, we brought our digital and immersive technology expertise to craft a one-of-a-kind solution. Leveraging user-centric design thinking, the Accenture Digital - Extended Reality team rapidly evolved and iterated an initial proof of concept: a solution using augmented reality smart caption glasses that rewrote the script for audience accessibility.

Working with the NT team, we continuously refined the smart caption glasses’ user interface, improving the experience throughout a year of rigorous testing, leading to the launch of this revolutionary captioning service in 2018. By displaying captions in real time on the glasses’ lenses, the audience can now see the dialogue in front of their eyes – from any seat in the house. And, using a discrete hand-held remote controller, the captions can be turned on and off or moved around the field of vision as needed.


A breakout performance for audience accessibility

With the smart caption glasses available for any live production, the NT is able to offer deaf and hard of hearing patrons an incredible degree of flexibility, meaning they never have to take their eyes off the drama; heralding a truly transformational change to the way in which this audience can experience theatre. Created by Epson, the glasses are lightweight enough to stay comfortable for a show lasting several hours, letting hard of hearing visitors enjoy every production to the fullest – not just those with fixed captions. And they mean other audience members are no longer distracted by caption screens they don’t use. That’s a winning performance by any measure. It also opens up other opportunities for the arts, whether it’s extending the solution to provide additional information in other cultural venues or enabling subtitles in different languages.

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