A new app designed to make movies accessible to blind or visually-impaired people is to be tested in Ireland for the first time this weekend.

The National Council for the Blind of Ireland are partnering with the Bartimeus Foundation to test the new Earcatch app, which provides audio description of movies onto smartphones.

This app adds a verbal description in between a film's dialogue, so that the viewer can follow what's happening on screen.

Having been rolled out in over 1,300 screens in The Netherlands and Belgium, the Earcatch app will be tested for the first time in Ireland during a screening of new animated adventure film Abominable this Saturday at Movies@Dundrum in Dublin.

The trial will run for four weeks and during this period people can use the app to watch Abominable in any cinema in Ireland.

Speaking about the new app, Cork-based cinema fan Michael O’Sullivan said, "Dublin is the nearest cinema to me that offers audio description so that’s a whole day gone to watch a film. It’s great I’ll be able to go to any cinema I want with this new app."

June Tinsley, NCBI Head of Communications said "NCBI is very excited about the possibilities Earcatch gives to people with sight loss to make their cinematic experience far more inclusive and accessible.

"Presently, many people who are blind or visually impaired do not go to cinemas as only a handful of Irish cinemas have the facilities in place to offer audio description".

The trial will run for four weeks and during this period people can use the app to watch Abominable in any cinema in Ireland

To use Earcatch, the viewer simply needs a smartphone and a headset. The audio description track for a film can be downloaded in advance of the screening. During the screening no internet connection is needed. As soon as the user hits "play" in the app, a unique digital fingerprint is made of the ambient sound.

Within a few seconds Earcatch knows exactly which part of the film you are watching and it will start playing the corresponding audio description automatically over your headphones.

Tickets for the screening of Abominable on October 12 at 2:00pm Movies@Dundrum in Dublin are available for free for people with sight loss and their families and friends. Reserve tickets here to try out Earcatch.

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