Advances in technology have led to the availability of consumer Head Mounted Displays and the availability of 360° cameras for capturing immersive content. This has also enabled broadcasters to explore new experiences, where narrative and content can be delivered with a heightened sense of presence and engagement. As with any new technology it is essential to consider accessibility from the start, especially in Europe, where e-inclusion is a priority of the EC and the Single Digital Market.

Immersive Accessibility (ImAc) explores how well-known Access Services (Subtitles, Audio Description, Audio Subtitling, Sign Language) can be best deployed in immersive environments. The key action in ImAc is to ensure immersive experiences are inclusive, also across different languages, addressing the needs of those with hearing and low vision problems, learning difficulties and the aged. The potential of 360° video, where a user is no longer fixed to a single “viewing area”, will be explored, e.g. providing more flexible positioning of Subtitles and Audio Description to complement the immersive experience.

During the first project year, user requirements have been gathered which were fed into developments of professional editing tools for these Access Services as well as the development of a dedicated player that supports the new access services “capabilities”. A first series of user tests has been carried out to improve the project’s developments; large scale user pilots are planned for autumn 2019.

ImAc is being coordinated by i2CAT, a non-profit technology and innovation centre located in Barcelona, and involves representatives of end-users on the one hand (RNIB (UK) and UAB (Catalonia) as well as professional users / service provider on the other (public service broadcasters RBB (Germany) and CCMA (Catalonia)). The project runs until March 2020.

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