Cowboys Stadium to offer new devices to help visually or hearing-impaired fans
Jan 22, 2010 (The Dallas Morning News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The visually and hearing-impaired should find Cowboys Stadium a friendlier venue these days thanks to devices initially designed for theme parks and museums.
As the football season was ending, the Dallas Cowboys rolled out a wireless system to provide closed captioning, audio play-by-play and amplified public announcements. Officials with the Houston company that developed the device -- slightly larger than a smart phone -- said it's likely to be the first of its kind for a stadium.
"You can go anywhere in the stadium and stay in tune with the game," said Scott Purcel, the Cowboys' director of broadcasting.
He said adding captions to the video board was considered, but that would limit some fans when they went to concession stands or other areas of the stadium. Purcel said he wasn't sure how many times the devices were used by fans at the end of this season, but maker Softeq Development Corp. said the team has about 40 units.
The device has a 3 1/2-inch screen with raised directional buttons on the edge to help with navigation. It connects to the stadium's Wi-Fi network through any of 700 access points and streams data for fans who need help following the games or other events at the stadium.
The radio play-by-play is available in both English and Spanish. The closed captions are now only in English, but the team plans to add Spanish.
The device -- with the not-so-catchy name of DURATEQ Live with Intelligent Access -- was created specifically for the Cowboys. Purcell said there wasn't an existing system team officials liked, so they approached Softeq for help.
That company created a similar system for Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Those devices, however, are triggered by infrared beacons as visitors toured the parks. They also rely on recorded material, such as songs and sound effects associated with rides.
Similar Softeq devices are used at the World of Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta and the New England Patriots' museum.
At Cowboys Stadium, the system had to be revised since the information streaming to the devices was being created on the fly. The final test was held during the Cotton Bowl, and the devices were used for the last two home games of the season.
The devices can be used for nonfootball events, such as the upcoming bull riding competition and the boxing match.
Trey Litel, a vice president with Softeq, said the company is talking to other sports venues about using the devices. He said those decision are often made in the off-season.
"I suspect that you might hear some announcements closer to the football season," Litel said.
The city of Arlington sent an e-mail this week with a list of 10 things to watch for in 2010.
Some will be of particular interest to Cowboys fans, such as completion of the giant Interstate 30 project. The effort, nicknamed Three Bridges Project, has resigned and rerouted roads throughout the area.
Another was confusing, though. Watch for the "arrival of eco-friendly pedicabs to hit the streets as the newest form of transportation in the Entertainment District," the e-mail said.
Actually, the pedicabs arrived in large numbers at the beginning of the football season late last summer and fall. What actually will arrive this year is regulation and licensing of them.
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