General
Sony’s Closed-Caption glasses for the hard-of-hearing hit theatres this month

By the end of this month, Regal Cinemas will have distributed closed-captioning glasses to more than 6,000 theaters across the country.

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What are they?

The Sony Entertainment Access Glasses are similar to 3-D glasses, but they are to be used for captioning. These captions are projected onto the glasses and float about ten feet in front of the user’s vision. This development is colossal for the deaf, as many of them struggle to attend the rare and often-obscured subtitled showings, and thus haven’t been to the cinemas to see a film for a long time. Though there are current personal captioning devices, they go inside a cup holder and have a screen attached which is bulky and displays the text out of their line of vision to the screen.

Other features for the glasses include audio tracks that describe the action on the screen for the blind or partially attendees, or they can boost the audio levels of the movie for those who are hard of hearing.

The Discovery Process

Since 1998, Randy Smith Jr., the chief executive officer for Regal Cinemas,  has been working for more than a decade to find a solution to this problem. His aim was ”to develop a technology that would allow accessibility to the deaf and blind for every show time, for every feature.” This was spurred on by his very own “personal guinea pig” at home, referring to none other than his deaf son, Ryan, who is now 23. Smith said that the process was very much trial and error, and he had a continual back and forth of prototypes with various tech companies, he and Ryan would test it out at when seeing a film together, and Ryan offered him feedback on each product.

“We’d do that until we got to a point that we felt it was comfortable enough,” Smith says.

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The Implications

After a successful trial period, it has been confirmed that the glasses will be used at around 6,000 different locations across the US, revolutionising cinema for the hard of hearing. Rob Del Moro, Chief Purchasing Officer for Regal Entertainment Group said that: “The evolution from open caption presentations and earlier generations of technology to our advanced Sony Entertainment Access System has led to the dawning of a new age of greater access at Regal. And we could not be more proud of the progress.”

When Randy Smith had finished the product, it was difficult for Smith to surmise his emotions, as it had been such a long journey but after announcing the new device, he received a letter from a parent who had been similar to him at the beginning. Smith said that letter described the feeling perfectly:

“I’ve attempted to enjoy a movie with my son so many times over the last 26 years, but to no avail. After watching a movie I would try to discuss it with him. The comments he would make would in no way relate to the plot of the movie and at one point he finally confessed that as he watched the screen, he simply made up the story in his head. He didn’t really know what was going on. The fact that I can take my son to a movie when he visits at the end of June is literally bringing tears to my eyes. It would seem silly to most people but I would imagine you understand what it feels like.”

Watch a video on the product right here.

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