London’s National theatre has been around since 1963 but that doesn’t mean it’s not using cutting edge technology.  Here’s the latest, smart glasses that help the hearing impaired better enjoy live performances.  

Could this new technology be used by churches?

The Epson smart glasses display subtitles in the user’s field of vision. The glasses are light and discreet and wearers have the option of changing the positioning, size and color of the captions to suit their own preferences.

SMART GLASSES CREATE A REVOLUTIONARY EXPERIENCE

The National Theatre already has the ability to set up caption screens, and it sets aside a block of seats with a view of them. But those seats have to be reserved ahead of time and since the captions are fixed in one place, theatre goers must look away from the on-stage action in order to read the text. Smart glasses keep the subtitles well within the wearer’s field of vision at all times and they can wear them anywhere in the auditorium.  Katie Collins, who wrote an article on the glasses for c/net, tried them out. She wrote, “it was possible to move my head and eyes to follow every nuance of the actors’ performances without having to sacrifice any opportunity to read the captions.

The always on smart glasses are getting a one-year trial at the National Theatre and soon the service will run in all three of the organization’s theaters, starting with the Dorfman this month, followed shortly by the Olivier and the Lyttelton. It will be supplemented by always-on audio description for visually impaired customers by April 2019.

CAN SMART GLASSES HELP CHURCHES?

Chris Carpenter, the Weekend Producer for Vineyard Cincinnati Church thinks the smart glasses could also be used in the same way in worship services for the deaf and for language interpretation.  He says an always on system would be especially helpful for churches that don’t have access to a interpreter for the deaf or other languages.

He can also envision live color elements with a script, pre-produced video pieces and at campuses where teaching is not live, but being beamed in from another location.

There are some problems that would need to be overcome. Unlike a play, the pastor probably doesn’t stick to a script.  And if he does, someone has to get the script ahead of time and prepare it for the the technology.

Andrew Baker, Production Systems Engineer at Southland Church in Lexington, Kentucky likes the possibilities virtual reality could bring to a worship setting.  He told MinistryTech.com, “The church should always be looking toward what’s next when it comes to technology to stay relevant and be familiar to guests…anytime you can reach a new segment of the population, in this case, the deaf community, that’s a significant and valuable proposition.”

He agrees that accurate captioning is a hurdle that will need to be overcome but he’s aware of churches that use speech to text closed captioning for live broadcasts that have very high accuracy rates.  He sees potential for combining that technology with smart glasses that could be a cost effective solution for communicating the message to the deaf community and beyond.

Oh yes, the cost.  The glasses list at $700 a piece at Best Buy.  New technology always comes with a pretty hefty price tag.  Still, those who have tried them call smart glasses nothing short of revolutionary.