Theater fans with visual or hearing disabilities can enjoy the 2018 Tony Awards thanks to Israeli startup GalaPro, which replaces sign-language interpreters and announcers with technology available on smartphones.
The 72nd annual ceremony will be held June 10 in New York City, to recognize achievement in Broadway productions during the 2017–18 season.
Using voice-recognition technology, GalaPro’s application will allow the visually impaired to listen to live audio descriptions of what is happening on the stage as well as the conversations of the facilitators. The hearing impaired can read live subtitles with transcripts of the ceremony.
“The translation technology we developed for live performances and film was integrated this year on most Broadway shows, as part of an initiative of the theater industry to make Broadway more accessible to people with disabilities,” said GalaPro CEO Yonat Burlin.
The technology will also enable multilingual translations of the Tony Awards ceremony, increasing its reach to any audience interested in following along, she added.
The Tel Aviv-based startup signed a contract in February with the Shubert Organization to broaden the theater group’s accessibility offerings. GalaPro’s technology is now used in nine shows in Shubert theaters, including “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Come From Away” and “School of Rock.”
The company has also signed on to partner with the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center as well as the Roundabout Theatre Company.
While phone use is typically forbidden inside theaters, the application is specially designed to minimize interruption for other viewers. GalaPro only works if the user’s phone is in airplane mode, thus preventing calls and other disturbances, and connected to an internal Wi-Fi system.
Additionally, the captions appear in red font on a black background to keep screen brightness at a minimum. Voice transmission is done only through headphones.
Earlier this year, Broadway announced a June 1 deadline for all theaters to provide services for people with seeing and hearing disabilities, beginning four weeks from any production’s opening night.