New technology from Spain’s University Carlos III of Madrid (UC3M)’s SoftLab research group has been implemented to give accessibility to the Broadway musical comedy The Addams Family at the Teatro Calderón of Madrid, UC3M announced on its website. The creative agency C&W, COMUNICAdos, and Escena Global also collaborated on the project, which received support from the Consejería de Educación e Innovación (Council for Education and Innovation) of the Autonomous Community of Madrid. Thanks to this project, individuals with visual and auditory impairment have been able to enjoy all of the performances of this musical comedy since the December 3, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
This innovation, developed by the research group from UC3M’s Instituto de Desarrollo Tecnológico y Promoción de la Innovación Pedro Juan de Lastanosa (Pedro Juan de Lastanosa Institute for Technological Development and Innovation), is based on software that uses an augmented reality system to allow members of the audience to individually see adapted subtitles and a sign language interpreter, and listen to the audio description. Moreover, the system is automatically synchronized with the play, with no human involvement, thanks to the artificial intelligence techniques that constantly detect what is happening on the stage. Then the spectator receives the contents via the application, GoAll.
According to the announcement, stage-sync is a technology that is designed to “learn” as more performances are held, and adapt to rhythm changes and actors. Using deep learning techniques combined with audio processing, the software attempts the synchronization of performance and accessibility elements. In addition, with the augmented reality visualization system, it is no longer necessary to include subtitles in the scenery because each spectator can see them integrated into the show.
According to the head of UC3M’s SoftLab, Professor Ángel García Crespo, until now, theater performances with this target audience in mind were few and far between, and they did not include sign language.
“Now it is possible for ALL performances to be accessible,” said Crespo.
A project with multiple collaborators
This adaptation project at the Teatro Calderón included the collaboration of Samsung as well as that of the art director Carlos Alcalde, through the production companies Entrecalles Producciones and DTF Transmedia, which worked closely with the creative teams from C&W to integrate artistic and esthetic materials with the accessibility elements.
“When LETSGO and Esteve started to adapt the play, we realized that Thing (the hand in The Addams Family) could not receive the same focus in the theater as it did in the film, and we thought this was the perfect opportunity to give it an important part in the play, by converting Thing into our sign language interpreter. This seems like a natural role for the character, given that it expresses itself exclusively through its hands,” said Carmelo Rodríguez, of C&W.
The project is financed with the support of the Consejería de Educación e Investigación (Council for Education and Research) of the Autonomous Community Madrid as part of the grants for the “Cheque Innovación” (Innovation Check) program, which is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund to incentivize the use of innovative services.