Alcorn McBride and Birket Engineering introduce AR captioning for parades and attractions

Alcorn McBride and Birket Engineering have partnered up to introduce a unique solution for delivering Augmented Reality (AR) captions to guests with special needs who are attending parades or experiencing dark ride attractions.
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Alcorn McBride and Birket Engineering have partnered up to introduce a unique solution for delivering Augmented Reality (AR) captions to guests with special needs who are attending parades or experiencing dark ride attractions.

The companies’ expertise in themed attractions has enabled them to develop a comprehensive system, which streams captions from RidePlayer, Alcorn McBride’s on-board synchronous audio player and show controller, to a pair of smart glasses over a WIFI network. 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 easy-to- implement 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. Captions are then delivered to the guests based on their needs and location using a seamless combination of iBeacon technology, the Birket Engineering InThrall app, and smart glass devices such as the Epson Moverio or the Vuzix Blade.” explains Alcorn McBride’s Chief Innovation Officer Scott Harkless.

“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,” he notes.

In a dark ride each guest travels through a carefully crafted experience. They go from queue line to preshow 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 preshow area, the smart glasses will sense their location and tune in to the preshow 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 synchronizes 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 preshow 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 preshow. 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 preshow AV presentation.

Central to the AR captioning solution are the smart glass devices, which run Birket Engineering’s InThrall app 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.

Birket Engineering’s InThrall app, which can run on any Android-based device, including Epson Moverio and Vuzix 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. Most of the time, a black screen is displayed so that the guest can see right through the glasses and enjoy the attraction. When an iBeacon is sensed, the app tunes into the multicast address specified by the iBeacon and begins displaying captions for that area. The location, size, and color of the captions are flexible and determined by programming the captioning data.

“As we design attractions, we strive to offer every guest an amazing experience that they can’t find at home,” Scott explains. “That’s why we’re so excited about this technology. It allows even more guests to share in these experiences in a more meaningful way.”

About Alcorn McBride:

Founded in 1986, Alcorn McBride is the leading manufacturer of show control, audio and video equipment for the themed entertainment industry, and a rapidly growing provider of audio and video systems for retail environments and transportation applications. Staffed by some of the industry’s best engineers and backed by outstanding customer support, the company has demonstrated great agility in bringing new designs to market.

A hallmark of Alcorn McBride products is their durable, zero maintenance design. The company’s products provide consistent, reliable operation for audio and video playback applications worldwide. For more information, visit www.alcorn.com.

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