Microsoft Sponsors Largest Showing of” Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace” for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Viewers

SEATTLE, July 14, 1999 — Microsoft Corp. today will host a captioned screening of “Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace” that will include an expected audience of more than 300 viewers who are deaf and hard-of-hearing, most of whom will be in Seattle to attend the 13th biennial Telecommunications for the Deaf Inc. (TDI) International Conference held this week. Using Rear Window (r) Captioning (RWC) technology developed by WGBH Boston and installed during the recent renovation at the Cinerama, viewers can read captions on portable Plexiglas reflector screens attached to their cup-holders. This will be the largest such audience to view a popular film using this technology.

TDI promotes full visual access to entertainment, information and telecommunications for people who are deaf, hard-of-hearing and speech-impaired. FCC Chairman William Kennard will give a short introductory speech about how technology like that used in the Cinerama can remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Microsoft and Bayliner Marine Corp. worked together to build 400 specially designed RWC reflectors that allow captioning for moviegoers who are deaf and hard-of-hearing without altering the experience for the general audience.

The caption reflectors attach to theater seats and take advantage of RWC technology to reflect captions from a special LCD text display mounted in the rear of the theater.

Although this technology (both RWC and the DVS Theatrical (r) System, collectively referred to as the Motion Picture Access Project, or Mopix (r) ) traditionally has been available only in specialty theaters and theme parks, Cinerama is one of the premier movie theaters in the country to offer technology such as Mopix and assistive listening devices to make movies more accessible for those with disabilities. The Cinerama, built in 1963, was purchased in 1997 by investor and philanthropist Paul G. Allen and restored to world-class audio, projection, technology and accessibility standards. It reopened earlier this year and is operated on behalf of Allen by General Cinema.

“Microsoft will be a driving force in making technology accessible to people with disabilities,” said Greg Lowney, director of accessibility at Microsoft. “We’re pleased to sponsor this event at the Cinerama tonight, as it provides an excellent example of how all people can enjoy state-of-the-art technology.”

“This morning the Federal Communications Commission took action to put curb cuts on the information superhighway,” said Kennard. “And this event tonight at the Cinerama is an example of how telecommunications technology makes a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.”

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

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