Is it possible to translate the visual display of 360 videos into a multi-sensory experience using subtitles, sign language and audio description? How can traditional broadcasters experimenting with fully immersive environments open up these experiences that have remained inaccessible to people with disabilities?
These are some of the questions that i2CAT, a research organisation located in Barcelona, along with eight partners, seeks to answer in its 30-month project titled “Immersive Accessibility (ImAc)”.
i2CAT’s mission is to promote research and innovation in advanced internet technology at a regional, national and international level. After a number of research studies exploring the benefits of immersive 360 degree videos for broadcasters and consumers of digital entertainment services, studies focused on understanding the response of viewers with disabilities to such environments are the next big frontier.
The ImAc project is funded by the European Commission's Horizon 2020 Programme under the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), Media and Convergence category with a funding of €2,682,227.50.
Professor Pilar Orero from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, is part of the project board. She has led some of the most crucial studies on the accessibility of audio visual content and believes that it is time to start exploring accessibility fits for the 360 degree environment. “Considerable work has been done to ensure that traditional content delivered through various broadcast media streams are made accessible for people with disabilities,” Professor Orero says. She points out that this is one of the first studies seriously investing time and effort into the area. “This is a major step to safeguard the level of accessibility achieved in audio visual media over the past decade,” she adds.
The project team strongly believe that this collaboration that brings together representatives from the field of research in ICT and accessibility, broadcast industry and user organisations paved the way for the grant. i2CAT will lead the project team comprising researchers, broadcasters and professionals from Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, University of Salford, Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg, Corporacio Catalana de Mitjans Audiovisuals SA, Institut für Rundfunktechnik Gmbh, Motion Spell, Anglatecnic SL and the Royal National Institute Of Blind People.