New app brings VoD to blind and partially sighted


Sight loss charity RNIB trials pioneering audio description mobile app

Blind and partially sighted people in the UK are set to benefit from a new app developed by Universal Multimedia Access and made accessible in the UK in partnership with the sight loss charity, RNIB, that will open up video on demand (VoD) services that up until now have had limited provision of audio description (AD).

The app, which is currently being tested by more than 150 blind and partially sighted people, will provide AD – commentary that describes scenes, body language, expressions and movements – to TV programmes and films watched through on demand services such as Sky, Sky Go, Amazon Instant, iTunes, NOW TV and Netflix.

The MovieReading app allows users to download AD tracks using their smartphones and tablets, which will then sync to play as they watch films and TV programmes. The app listens to the soundtrack of the film through the smartphone or tablet’s microphone. It then identifies the exact point in the film or TV programme so that it can precisly sync the downloaded AD track.

The UK is the world leader in AD. Over 70 television channels and many cinemas deliver AD on television programmes and new film releases. However, despite the huge growth in popularity of streaming services, the situation for VOD couldn’t be more different; just three out of the 96 VOD players operating in the UK currently deliver description.

RNIB’s Steve Tyler, head of solutions strategy and planning, said: “Audio description enhances the television and film viewing experience for its users. They use it on TV, cinemas and DVD, so why not on the VoD services as well? We believe that the app could serve as a personalised solution for AD users and are keen to hear what the participants in the trial have to say about their user experience.”

Ian Mecklenburgh, director of cross-product strategy at Sky, added: “At Sky, we’re proud to work closely with RNIB on a wide range of projects benefitting blind and partially sighted customers. We’ve always been passionate about audio description and already provide 200 hours of on-demand audio-described programmes on the Sky+ HD Box. We’re delighted to be part of this new app trial that will make even more of Sky’s great entertainment and movies available with audio description on-demand.”

Participants in the trial will be able to use AD with popular TV programmes such as Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire and some of the leading films of the recent years.


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