For many people, enjoying a movie or television series means more than just watching it. For individuals who are visually impaired, the richness of the story lies not only in the dialogues between characters but also in a feature called 'audio description.' This feature is essentially a specialized audio track which allows for narration of the visual content, adding depth to the viewing experience.
However, a snag exists making this beneficial feature less than ideal. At present, there is no straightforward way for a viewer to clearly identify which shows or movies offer this audio description until several minutes into the content. This lack of identification creates a barrier, limiting the enjoyment and immersive experience of visually impaired viewers.
Such concerns have motivated the recent filing of patent US20230269442A1 by Roy F. Samuelson. The patent outlines an apparatus and method aimed at improving the accessibility and enjoyment for visually impaired media consumers.
Solutions presented in this patent aim to address the identification issue as well as the quality of audio description. The patented device uses memory to store various soundtracks linked to a show or movie and can swiftly identify and modify them as necessary. The presence of an audio description is then indicated to end users, making it easier for users, particularly those blind or visually impaired, to find and enjoy media with this feature. In addition, the method allows for indicating the quality level of the audio description. This ensures that users are not disappointed by the quality of the description and can expect a certain level of enjoyment.
Upon the implementation of this patented method in real-world scenarios, finding and enjoying described audio content could be much more straightforward for users. Think of it as having a knowledgeable friend who quickly scans through various movies or shows and points out which ones have the special audio track. This would greatly improve the movie or television series watching experience for visually impaired viewers and could, over time, become a standard feature in streaming platforms.
Still, as described in this patent, the process of improving the audio description goes beyond just identification. According to the patent, the quality of the audio description is also important. The patented method includes steps to evaluate and establish a tiered level of quality for the audio description. Presently, audiences have no way to gauge the quality of the audio description until they begin watching the content. The patented method introduces a solution to this as well, by indicating the quality level of the audio description.
Looking ahead, if this patent becomes a reality in the market, movie nights may see a significant transformation. Blind or low vision users, who are largely reliant on audio description, could now not only find their preferred content quickly but also be sure of the quality level they're in for. They'll no longer have to endure several minutes of a movie or series uncertain about the presence or quality of audio description.
It's a promising future for more inclusive entertainment where imbibing the essence of a visual medium won’t necessarily be hindered by the limitations of sight.
P.S: As with any patent, it is uncertain when or if this invention will hit the market. While the prospect is exciting, it is just that for now - a prospect.
Remember folks, inclusion and accessibility in entertainment isn’t the future, it's the need of the present. Let's hope and urge our entertainment providers to take this necessity seriously.