Reel Access: The Future of Closed-Captioned Movie Devices

Article excerpt

On February 21, 2007, Regal Cinemas hosted a one-day symposium in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate and discuss emerging technologies for closed captioning devices. We were among several AG Bell representatives at the event, which was attended by representatives from other local organizations including the Hearing Loss Association of America and the National Association for the Deaf. The purpose of the symposium was to allow attendees to test and give feedback on several devices currently under development for use in movie theaters.

Presently, Regal Cinemas shows films with open captioning, a technique similar to subtitling that displays text along the bottom of the screen. However, since many patrons without hearing loss have complained that open captioning is distracting and have requested refunds despite prior notification of its use, Regal Cinemas is investigating closed-captioning alternatives. The feedback obtained from symposium participants will be used to help Regal Cinemas select closed captioning methods and to assist companies with refining their products to best suit the needs of moviegoers with hearing loss.

During the symposium, four companies - eMagin, InSight (SiteLine), Microvision and USL CloZed Captions - provided opportunities for attendees to test prototype devices in various stages of development.

* Microvision and eMagin provided a monocular lens and a set of binocular goggles, respectively, with captions visible on the lenses. Although we initially were concerned that having the words so close to our visual fields would be disorienting, we found the illusion of depth created by these two devices presented closed captioning in a very natural on-screen manner.

* InSight (SiteLine) presented a prototype comprised of two components. Instead of goggles or glasses, a half-inch-by-half-inch screen was placed over the dominant eye via an attached supporting headpiece. Through a companion personal digital assistant (PDA), it was possible to modify caption size, color, alignment and font. We found the headset to be somewhat uncomfortable for cochlear implant and hearing aid users and the "floating screen" effect was distracting at times; however, we liked the option of tailoring the captions to the individual user's preferences. …