» The Difference Engine

The Difference Engine is Talking Birds' discreet new tool for making events and performance accessible to partially-sighted, deaf or hard of hearing audience members by delivering captioning or audio description direct to their mobile device.

» Comments from user-testers

"This sort of thing would ordinarily be off limits to a deaf or hard of hearing person as you just wouldn’t be able to following anything that was being said. Especially because performances were happening in various parts of the venue as opposed to a fixed stage...It worked really well and a key part of this for me is that it’s something that is relativity inexpensive to run as it’s software running from a laptop! I really think this has a lot of potential and could bring subtitles to ANY event with very little expense to the organisers." [audience blogpost]

"I followed brilliantly because...within Talking Birds someone had created a new way of captioning that I honestly think, with some backing, could be the next big thing...I was also seriously impressed that a small bunch of people in a low-budget performing arts group saw it as important that their show was accessible to all and deemed it necessary to devise and implement a method to make it possible." [The Hearing Times]

"I had given up going to the theatre and live shows because of the isolation it creates when you cannot hear, particularly when the audience is laughing at something said on stage. So thank you for making this experience more inclusive." [audience feedback by email]

» Beta-testing

Thanks to investment from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the second version of The Difference Engine is about to enter a phase of intensive beta-testing with a small number of arts organisations across the country. We will aim to publicise all the events at which it is being tested so that you can go and test it yourself (and see lots more art into the bargain!) and we'd be really interested to get any feedback from you as to how you found the system as a user.

The Difference Engine App enables captions to be delivered to mobile devices during performances and events which are using the Difference Engine system. Captions are delivered using a Wireless Local Area Network, so the Current Event and System Feedback options will only work when your device is connected to a Difference Engine network, at a performance or event. (The system will normally be active at least 20 minutes before an event begins.)

More details to follow soon. If you would be interested in helping to user-test the next version of the Difference Engine, please get in touch.

» Donate to the Difference Engine

We are currently fundraising to develop the prototype system into a more robust and shareable form. Every bit of spare change helps! If you could donate towards this development, you can do this via the paypal button below. Thank you, we really appreciate your support.


» Credits

The Difference Engine was funded to prototype stage by Arts Council England West Midlands' Digital Content Development fund and a subsequent Grants for the Arts award. See how it works here: [short promo video]. The original prototype was programmed by James Shuttleworth. The name was borrowed from Charles Babbage, but it seemed kind of appropriate.


links to the difference enginelinks to Talking Birds online shoplinks to Fanfare project - commission a bespoke fanfare