'Subtitle glasses' for the hearing impaired

Spectacles that project subtitles to a movie or television program onto the lens are being tested in Japan.

The glasses were created by Japan's Olympus Corp. and the Media Access Support Centre, a non-profit organization that works to make films and DVDs more accessible to people with impaired hearing.

According to the MASC, the glasses look similar to regular spectacles but are closer to a head-mounted display unit. An adjustable miniaturized projector is attached to one arm of the spectacles and works in synchronization with the movie or television program that is being watched.

The words that are being spoken are beamed into the bottom corner of the wearer's lens, along with information that the hard-of-hearing need to follow the storyline, such who is speaking or any other data that requires sound to be conveyed, such as a door closing or the noise of a vehicle.

MASC has long been an advocate of "barrier-free" technology in movie theaters, but filmmakers have previously been put off by the use of subtitles as they can prove to be distracting to other viewers.

The organization is providing the captioning for movies from its website and through the iPhone to the new glasses, which were unveiled at the Tokyo International Film Festival. The festival, the largest in Asia, runs until October 30.

Cost remains a problem for the NGO, but members said they hope increased awareness of the system will help bring down costs because using subtitles provided through the head-mounted display is less than one-fifth of the price of printing subtitles onto film to be screened.

At present, the system is only available for Japanese-language productions, but it could be easily adapted for other languages.

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