AirScript Wireless Subtitle Handset Launches At Shaftsbury Theatre's HAIRSPRAY

The novel AirScript wireless subtitle handset launches at Shaftesbury Theatre in the heart of London's Theatreland, providing individual audience members with tailored translations in real time
Show Translations today announces the launch of AirScript, the world's first real time wireless subtitle handset. Developed and manufactured in the UK by Cambridge Consultants, the system is making its debut with Stage Entertainment's smash-hit musical ‘Hairspray' at the Shaftesbury Theatre. Now ‘Hairspray' fans from all over the world will be able to appreciate London's happiest, funniest, sunniest show in their native language.

AirScriptTM delivers subtitles from the show via personal handsets in real time, in a wide selection of languages simultaneously, allowing both non-native speaking audience members and those with hearing difficulties to enjoy the production. Unlike existing translation solutions available on the market today, AirScriptTM ensures that each and every performance is accessible to all. Initial feedback has been very positive.

"Existing translation solutions in theatres do not cater for everyone satisfactorily," commented Alexander Vegh, Chief Executive of Show Translations. "For example, a screen to the side of the stage can only provide one language and can be very distracting for the audience members who don't require translations. What we wanted to deliver was a solution that can provide multiple simultaneous translations at any theatre on an individual basis, including for those who are deaf or hearing impaired. What we have developed with Cambridge Consultants is just that - a simple, reliable and convenient system to cater for a wide variety of needs."

About a third of London's theatre tickets are purchased by overseas visitors to London*, many of whom are non-English speaking. AirScriptTM provides a simple, cost effective and easy to use method to cater for each person's specific needs. The handset has been designed to be easy to use and comfortable for all ages and abilities, with an ergonomic shape and intuitive, one-touch operation.

The speed of the subtitles is controlled by the stage prompt, thus ensuring the captions that appear on the AirScriptTM handsets will always be synchronised with the action on stage. The AirScriptTM handsets also take into account audience members not using the system, with carefully designed screens that avoid the problems of light spillage often associated with mobile phone screens.
"The initial concept had been extremely well formed by Show Translations", commented David Bradshaw, Group Leader of the Software Technologies Group at Cambridge Consultants. "But it was still a challenge to turn their concept into a viable product. Wirelessly supporting potentially hundreds of devices simultaneously in a theatre was one of the main issues that we have had to overcome, but perhaps more important was ensuring that the handsets were universally accessible and non-distracting. They have to be very simple to use, and also comfortable for use by anyone. As a result, a great deal of time was spent getting the ‘human factors' right."

The innovative system has been trialled successfully by the Shaftesbury Theatre, which was also the venue for the product launch. Commenting on the trial, James Williams, Chief Executive, Theatre of Comedy Company, Shaftesbury Theatre said: "It is appropriate that ‘Hairspray', with its broad-based appeal, should be the vehicle for bringing to the West End this concept for universal access. My colleagues at the Shaftesbury and I have been exploring a number of ways to make our shows more accessible and the AirScriptTM handset seems to be a real hit. A lot of work has gone into getting this simple, yet effective concept working effectively in an incredibly short timeframe and we're delighted with the response we're seeing from our audiences."

The system will be launched with eight languages available including English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Japanese and Chinese.

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