The UK Cinema Association, in partnership with the charity Action on Hearing Loss, has today launched a Technology Challenge Fund intended to stimulate new innovations in the delivery of subtitling for people with hearing loss.
There are 11 million people with hearing loss across the UK, or around one in six of the population, a percentage which is expected to rise to one in five – or 15.6 million people – by 2035.
Over the last decade, the UK cinema sector has worked hard to meet the needs of deaf and hearing-impaired audiences, increasing the number of subtitled – or ‘open caption’ – screenings significantly. There are now over 1,500 subtitled screenings in UK cinemas every week.
While the industry believes that subtitled screenings offer the most accessible and inclusive way to meet the needs of deaf and hearing-impaired customers, the reluctance of the wider audience to attend such screenings means that providing more of these presents significant economic challenges.
Over the last few years, the Association has tracked the development of a number of ‘closed caption’ systems where subtitles are only seen by the individual audience member, via either a personal screen or a pair of specially-adapted glasses.
While some progress has been made in this regard, there has as yet been little significant take-up of these devices.
In an attempt to stimulate fresh thinking in this area, the Association – in partnership with the charity Action on Hearing Loss – has today launched a Technology Challenge Fund with the aim of supporting the development of an inclusive technological solution that will allow people with hearing loss to enjoy a more integrated cinema experience.
In doing so, it wishes to cast the net of potential partners further than just the cinema sector to involve those working in the wider technology and academic sectors.
The Association will provide some initial financial incentives for engagement and then – as appropriate – some further limited funding for development of promising concepts, all with the hope that support from wider industry partners can be drawn in as the process develops.
The successful applicant with retain Intellectual Property (IP) rights to their product.
Should a suitable and viable product be identified, Action on Hearing Loss, will help the inventors to find a suitable commercial partner to develop and create a market-ready product. The UK Cinema Association and Action on Hearing Loss will promote the product across their networks both across UK and internationally.
Announcing the Fund, Grainne Peat, Policy Executive at the UK Cinema Association, commented:
“The UK Cinema sector is always looking at ways to enhance the cinema experience for its customers, particularly in regards to accessibility. This Fund is another example of the sector’s willingness to embrace technological solutions in addressing the challenge of inclusion.
We aim to cast the net of potential partners further than just the cinema sector to involve those working in technology and academia, as we believe this offers the chance to bring fresh perspectives to a challenge the cinema sector has been looking to resolve.”
Further details on the Fund
The aim of the Fund is to catalyse innovation in technology that will allow people with hearing loss to have access to an inclusive cinema experience.
The ideal solution must:
- Allow people to have an integrated cinema experience with the general public i.e. people should be able to view subtitles without disturbing other viewers who do not want to view subtitles;
- Be easy to use for both the venue and user;
- Be financially viable for venues to install and use; and
- Be compatible with existing cinema infrastructure
Projects are expected to develop and test a working prototype in a ‘real life’ cinema environment with end user feedback.
The fund is open to all individuals and companies – both UK and international based – who can demonstrate their capabilities in this field by completing the application form to attend the launch workshop. The closing deadline for applications is Friday 28 September.