THREE YEARS AFTER Google pulled the plug on its intrepid Google Glass Explorers, somebody has finally come up with a good consumer use for smart glasses. The National Theatre has found the hardware provides a brilliantly effective way of presenting captions for hearing impaired ticket-holders.
Smart glasses will be offered free of charge to visitors for the productions of War Horse and Hadestown and will then be supported for everything the theatre puts on in 2019. Take note Google: that's how you support a product.
The National Theatre already offers performances with captions, but given they appear above or below the stage, smart glasses should offer a far more immersive performance. You won't have to look away from the actors to read what they're saying, as the words appear magically before your eyes via WiFi.
To ensure that captions appear in the right place and wearers don't see jokes before other theatregoers, the software is trained to respond to lighting changes and stage directions, as well as following the words as spoken.
Sadly, the crazy price of the technology hasn't gone, despite the good work of those noble explorers that bravely laid down their wallets for very little. The smart glasses cost over $1,000 per pair, meaning that the theatre has only been able to afford 50 to begin with.
That may well be fine when used for the original purpose of providing captions, but the potential of smart glasses for theatres doesn't necessarily end there. You could add AR special effects, translations, or to view people's pithy tweets in real time.
As Jonathan Suffolk, the National Theatre's technical director told The New York Times, "the glasses could be used for anything. They're basically like wearing a mobile phone."
It would be a pretty damning review of your production if visitors started using said tech to browse Reddit, but at least they wouldn't be ruining the show for everyone else. µ
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