Introducing smart devices in theatres: Why?

  • 19 janvier 2022
  • Les exclus de Theatre in Paris
  • Angela Spidahl

Where does the idea to put technology in live theatres originate?

We understand that finding accessible events in Paris can be difficult if you’re affected by the language barrier or have special needs. For this reason, we have put in place revolutionary solutions with Panthea to make theatre accessible to foreign-language speakers, hard-of-hearing individuals, low vision individuals, the deaf community, and the blind community.

In our partnering theaters we have made devices like surtitling glasses, tablets, smartphones, and audio headsets available to broadcast surtitles in English or French, Audio Description, adapted french surtitles, and video adaptation in FSL. These accessibility devices will not only bring a greater audience to the theatre but will bring Parisian performances to those who did not have access to them in the past!

If you’re looking to learn more about the accessibility devices and performances that Theatre in Paris and Panthea have to offer, read the details below! Read until the end to find ideas for shows you can attend with smart devices!

What are smart glasses?

Popularized in 2013 by many companies including Google with their own Google Glass product, smart glasses have been around for close to a decade. After the world premiere of our multilingual surtitiling glasses in the theaters at the 2015 Avignon Festival, Theatre in Paris and Panthea became pioneers in a new market by developing innovative surtitling devices in an Augmented Reality environment.

Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality Glasses

What is the difference between Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) Glasses? The most notable difference between AR and VR devices is that AR alters a real-world setting while VR uses a fabricated virtual setting. Diving further, All about Vision describes the difference as the following: “While AR glasses overlay information on your actual view of the world, VR simulates an entirely different reality”.

With Theatre in Paris and Panthea, AR glasses have found a new home in theatres. With our surtitling glasses, one can choose to attend a live event with the dialogue translated in real-time as well as choose the option to listen to the Audio Description or display a video of the translation in French Sign Language.

What are surtitling glasses?

How do surtitling glasses work? Surtitling glasses are smart glasses with a new technology developed by Panthea that enables surtitles to be shown in an individual spectator’s view, within the glasses, during a live performance. In addition to the surtitles, these AR glasses can be connected to a headset for Audio Description as well as display a video with sign language. These features not only make performances accessible to a wider audience but also allow for audience members to have a personalized experience in a way that suits them best.

What are surtitles?

What are surtitles you ask? Is it just a typo from the word subtitles? As described by Panthea, the European leader of surtitling solutions for performing arts, surtitling is the art of displaying translations during a theater or opera performance, in synchronization with the actors, performers, and/or singers. These translations can be projected onto a screen above the stage during a performance or, thanks to Panthea, they can be provided on surtitling glasses and smart devices such as a tablet or smartphone.

Surtitles vs Subtitles

The difference between surtitles and subtitles, although minimal, is very important. Surtitles are similar to subtitles in the fact that they aid in the translation of dialogue, but the biggest difference between the two is that surtitles are used in live performances while subtitles are used in film and video (Mirriam-Webster).

In the world of film and video, there is also an important distinction between subtitles and captions. Subtitles are designed to translate a foreign language for those who do not speak the language, while captions (also called closed captions) will act as a service to audience members who cannot hear the audio (3playmedia).

How do tablets and smartphones also help with accessibility in theatres?

Other than surtitling glasses, Theatre in Paris and Panthea provide other supports such as tablets, smartphones, and headsets.
Those who would like to have their performance accompanied by a translation in French Sign Language may ask for access to our tablets.
Those who would like to have their performance accompanied by Audio Description may ask for access to our smartphones and headsets.

Why are surtitles and smart devices important?

Surtitles, surtitling glasses, and other accessibility devices make live performances more accessible to a wider audience, notably to foreign-language speakers, hard-of-hearing individuals, low vision individuals, the deaf community, and the blind community. By making theater accessible to anyone and everyone, the performance industry can share culture with those who before it was not possible and continuously strive to build an inclusive community. In addition, it attracts not only these audiences but also all those who accompany them such as family, friends, and others who help fill theatre halls.

Who can surtitles and smart devices help?

Surtitles and surtitling glasses can help a wide range of people as well as be a fun new way to enjoy live performances. These features, made available by Theatre in Paris and Panthea, not only can help those are hard of hearing or have low vision but also help foreign-language speakers who fear the language barrier and would like to enjoy a show that is not in the language they proficiently speak.

How do Panthea's surtitles and smart devices impact the future?

Since surtitles and surtitling glasses make live performances available to a wider, more inclusive audience, they will furthermore support the growth of theater and other live arts. Moreover, by making these features available in theatres, travelers, hard-of-hearing individuals, partially sighted individuals, the deaf community, the blind community, and audience members who do not speak the language the theatrical piece was written in will be able to enjoy more options when choosing events they can attend.

Follow us on Instagram or Facebook to stay up to date with the latest shows and innovative technology in the theatre world!