The A&E Audio Project –from the lab to the living room

By: Lauren Ward

Last week the A&E Audio Project launched on BBC Taster – short for Accessible and Enhanced Audio. The project is a collaboration between University of Salford, BBC R&D and Casualty, led by PhD student and IOA member Lauren Ward.

The project trials a new feature in the BBC’s media player which allows audiences to adjust the mix based on their hearing needs and preferences. You can try it out for yourself here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/taster/pilots/casualty-ae-audio

The new feature, a slider in the bottom right, is aimed at improving the experience of watching TV for the 11 million people in the UK with a hearing impairment. At one end of the slider is the TV mix. As you reduce the slider towards the ‘accessible’ end, the dialogue is boosted and many background sounds are attenuated. Crucially, not all are attenuated. Important non-speech sounds which progress the plot – like a heart monitor alert to indicate a cardiac arrest in Casualty – remain at the same volume. This put viewers in control of the mix but ensures the narrative and creative intent of the programme is retained.

If this technology sounds familiar, it’s probably because you have been in the audience at Reproduced Sound and heard about its progress over the last three years of Lauren’s PhD. This trial is the culmination of years of listening studies, surveys and participatory research, including the IoA funded Engagement and Research (EAR) days last year.

Now that this technology is one step closer to the living room, we would love to hear what you think!

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