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Alcorn McBride develops AR captioning solution

Alcorn McBride has introduced a solution that delivers Augmented Reality captions to guests with special needs who are attending parades or experiencing dark ride attractions.

Alcorn McBride has introduced a solution that delivers Augmented Reality (AR) captions to guests with special needs who are attending parades or experiencing dark ride attractions.  

The system streams captions distributed from a WiFi network to RidePlayer, Alcorn McBride’s on-board synchronous audio player and show controller. RidePlayer captions the entire parade or attraction – not just individual pieces of video. Smart glasses worn by guests sense the nearest parade float or attraction zone and overlay text without obscuring guests’ views. The solution requires no configuration by the operations staff. 

“Since Alcorn McBride show control devices, like the V16Pro and RidePlayer, are aware of show timing and audio throughout the entire experience, they are the ideal systems to stream captioning data,” explained Alcorn McBride’s Chief Innovation Officer Scott Harkless. “Captions are then delivered to the guests based on their needs and location using a seamless combination of iBeacon technology, the InThrall app, and smart glass devices such as the Epson Moverio or the Vusix Blade.

“Great captioning solutions allow attractions to be more inclusive. The challenge is presenting captions in a way that doesn’t interfere with the other elements of the guest’s experience or the experience of others. This is especially tricky in complex applications like dark rides where there are multiple areas and many ride vehicles with unique audio sources.” 

In a dark ride each guest travels through a carefully crafted experience. They go from queue line to pre-show to load platform and then to the ride experience itself. Throughout their journey audio may come from many sources besides video screens: a talking animatronic character, safety announcements in corridors, background sounds to enhance the themed environment. Guests with hearing disabilities will want to see captions that describe the audio experience. International visitors will prefer to see dialog translated into their native languages. 

Implementing captioning for a dark ride attraction, for example, requires each system to be responsible for streaming its own captioning data via WiFi Multicast. When the guest steps into the pre-show area, the smart glasses will sense their location and tune in to the pre-show captioning stream. When the guest boards a vehicle, the glasses will tune in to the captioning stream for their vehicle. 

Alcorn McBride’s RidePlayer is designed to endure the high-vibration environments of ride vehicles and to provide many features to reduce the need for auxiliary equipment aboard the vehicle. It offers 16 channels of polyphonic audio playback as well as onboard show control and GPS integration. For the dark ride application, a RidePlayer is installed on each ride vehicle. The device links with the ride control system and coordinates with the off-board show control systems. This ensures an on-board audio experience that synchronises perfectly with all the show elements going on around the vehicle. Captioning data is added alongside the audio tracks in a show control timeline so that they are streamed in perfect time with the audio experience. 

In the pre-show area, Alcorn McBride’s V16X is responsible for show control. It is fully programmable using free WinScript Live software and remotely controls all the equipment in the pre-show. This includes triggering AV playback in A/V Binloop Uncompressed, a multi-channel synchronous video player, and streaming captioning data that is synchronous with the pre-show AV presentation. 

Central to the AR captioning solution are the smart glass devices, which run the Android OS and receive captioning data from the WiFi network. In this application, the technology displays captions within the wearer’s field of view while allowing them to see the environment around them. 

iBeacons are intelligent transponders based on Bluetooth LE technology. Smart glasses can sense when iBeacon devices are near and read unique information from them. iBeacons installed in the pre-show area will share the multicast IP address for preshow captions; iBeacons installed on the ride vehicles will share the address for that vehicle. 

The InThrall app, which can run on any Android-based device, including Epson Moverio and Vusix Blade smart glasses, combines the functionality of the smart glasses, iBeacons, and captioning streams from Alcorn McBride devices into a seamless captioning experience for the guest. InThrall runs automatically when the glasses power up. When an iBeacon is sensed, the app tunes into the multicast address specified by the iBeacon and begins displaying captions for that area.