Feature Article

April 08, 2015

New Mobile Application Gives Cinematic Sight to the Seeing Impaired

True-blue film buffs are probably familiar with a scene in the French Motion picture, Amélie, in which the main character leads a blind man through the streets of Paris, narrating the colorful details of a frenetic city—lollipops in a bakery window, a street vendor selling melons, a baby watching a dog as it eyes chickens, and other feathered descriptions of a world forever out of reach for the sightless.

A new mobile app developed by Cybercom Group, made possible by Audible Magic, a leading provider of content recognition software solutions, provides a similar service for the seeing impaired by using pre-recorded audio narration describing the cinematic visuals on the big screen. The app also vocalizes subtitles, which means foreign films and motion pictures that include scenes spoken in foreign languages will make sense for those who can’t read for reasons involving vision impairment, dyslexia, etc.

Visuals are narrated through earphones, and are seamlessly synchronized with the film soundtrack via a mobile device's microphone, courtesy of technology developed by Audible Magic; it’s almost as if Amélie or someone like her were describing the visual cues. App users can download the recordings before heading to theaters from Sweden’s Cinema Guide server.

In a lot of ways, the app provides the seeing impaired with a sort of audio-infused screenplay; although the visual element is nonexistent, voice, soundtracks and surround sound audio paint a picture, adding layered depth to the movie-going experience that the visually impaired can follow from beginning to end.  According to Lisa Wacklin, project manager for Available Cinema at the Swedish Film Institute—in an article from Yahoo! Finance—audio descriptions were previously performed live, and for a meager 150 movie screenings annually. In Sweden alone, 150,000 movies per year will now be available to a demographic that has been largely overlooked by theaters and the film industry.

Those are results you can see—or in this care, hear, understand, enjoy and appreciate.  

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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