“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” -Steve Jobs
Last year, a family friend, Marty, approached Alex, the resident guru on tech in the family, to help solve a seemingly simple issue.
Marty explained, “I went to the theater and asked for an assistive listening device. The batteries wore out halfway through the showing and I had to miss 20 minutes of the film to go retrieve another set! I have an iPhone in my pocket, it can stream videos and music, why can’t it stream this?”
The gears in our heads started spinning and we thought it was a completely solvable dilemma: Put a piece of hardware in the projection booth connected to the audio, encode it as an MP3 and broadcast the audio over Wi-Fi. So we went to work building.
A few weeks later we resurfaced with Actiview 1.0. It was complete with the capability to stream audio from a projection booth’s sound equipment and transmit it as an MP3. We plugged it in for the very first time and heard the audio with one major complication:
It was 2 seconds behind the video. This may not seem like a big deal, but for movie-watching, even a second delay is noticeable, and for our purposes, unacceptable. So we went back to work.
Here’s the challenge: MP3 and similar consumer audio formats that we’re used to hearing in most of today’s apps have an inherent and considerable encoding time that delays any possibility of real time audio. This isn’t an issue for the current accessible audio solutions because they send sound over analog, which doesn’t need to take time being digitized. But you can’t get an analog signal on your smartphone.
To understand how audio is encoded, think of it as texting. You create a message, typing in every character or letter, and then send the whole message at once, in a chunk. The recipient gets the entire message and reads it whole. This is a great way to text, but it’s not actually a real-time conversation. For audio streaming, it’s much the same: the file is broken up into chunks and then sends them out piece by piece, just like sending separate texts in a larger conversation.
Within a month, we solved the real-time issue. Researching and iterating on our technology, we built Lightspeed Audio Streaming Technology, or LAST. Under the hood, LAST acts more like a real life conversation than texting. As someone speaks, the listener hears them as they occur. LAST loads audio in a rapid, constant stream, without any perceptible delay. That means no buffering, no load times, just listening.
LAST is what makes Actiview possible.
After building and perfecting our audio streaming capabilities, we recognized that there was also the potential to stream captioning as well, given that they’re also available with most films from the projection booth. More research and more development was done, working with a widely used, but rarely documented protocol and specification to connect with theater projectors.
Months of testing later and with dozens of iterations under our belt, Actiview is here to dramatically improve and simplify movie theater accessibility, as the most high tech and user experience-driven technology on the market. Powerful behind the scenes, yet just a play button away. We can’t wait to see what you think.
The Actiview Team