London theater for all: Device translates performance into 8 languages

Captions aren’t just for the opera anymore.

London theater is becoming more welcoming to foreign visitors by offering AirScript — a hand-held device that gives live translations in eight languages. The captions scroll throughout the performance — about seven lines at a time — in orange letters on a black background to cut the glare factor. Theater-goers can pick from English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese.

The first theater in London to offer the device is the Shaftesbury Theatre for its current show, Hairspray. The price to the patron? £6. 200 AirScripts can run at one time in a single theater.

Because it’s important that lines sync with the action on the stage, a manual operator cues the translations — the job can’t be automated.