The UK Cinema Association has today confirmed the next steps on their pioneering Technology Challenge Fund, established to stimulate technological innovation that will allow people with hearing loss to have a more inclusive cinema experience.

The Fund was launched in partnership with Action on Hearing Loss in October 2018, with an ‘invitation to apply’ which saw over a dozen different applications offering a range of different potential solutions to the challenge.

Following extensive consideration by an expert panel of industry professionals and a ‘user panel’ of deaf and hard of hearing cinema-goers, three proposals have now been short-listed for the first round of funding. Two of these – put forward by the National Theatre and Greta & Starks respectively – involve the use of assistive eyewear, while the third – proposed by Screen Language relies on a secondary screen.

The availability of subtitled screenings has long been an issue of contention. While subtitles are a vital solution for many who are deaf or hard of hearing, the reluctance of many cinema-goers to attend such screenings means that offering widespread provision is challenging for many cinema operators.

The provision of ‘closed’ captioned subtitles – where text is only visible to the individual on a personal device such as a screen or specially-adapted glasses, has long be seen to offer one way forward.

Commenting on this latest development, UK Cinema Association Chief Executive Phil Clapp said:

“While there is still a great deal of development work and testing to be done, we have been pleased by the quality of the proposals put forward and are hopeful that at least one of the short-listed applications will eventually provide a viable solution.”

Jesal Vishnuram, from Action on Hearing Loss added:

“Action on Hearing Loss are committed to supporting the development of new and innovative technology to improve the lives of people with hearing loss. The Cinema Subtitle Challenge Fund is a great collaborative venture that has led to some very exciting opportunities to genuinely improve the cinema experience for people with hearing loss.”

While each of the final three solutions are at varying stages of development, the next step will be to arrange a practical demonstration to assess the operational viability of the proposal before further funding and R&D takes place.

The full Press Notice confirming next steps can be found here.