Newcastle United introduce ‘sound shirts’ for deaf fans | BBC

Newcastle United are set to introduce ground-breaking “sound shirts”, which will allow deaf fans to “feel” the noise of St James’ Park for the first time.

The shirts, which look like a normal replica jersey, turn sound into touch using special sensors and motors – known as haptic technology – and will be used at a football match for the first time when Newcastle host Tottenham in the Premier League on Saturday.

“When you’re wearing the shirt, it’s a bit like you’re wearing the stadium,” said Ryan Genz, co-founder of Cute Circuit, the company behind the technology.

“We have microphones hidden all around St James’ that are capturing different parts of the crowd noise.”

The sound from those microphones is transmitted to tiny motors embedded in the fabric of the shirt. These vibrate and light up in response to the atmosphere in the ground.

“It’s not just the people near you that you’re feeling in the shirt,” Genz said. “You’re feeling people chanting and cheering all over the entire stadium. And you’re feeling them in different parts of the shirt.”

The shirts will be worn by fans who are deaf or have hearing loss – among them season-ticket holders Ryan Gregson and David Wilson.

“I’m excited,” said Gregson, 28. “It will link us to the stadium, to the crowd, the music and the singing.”

The friends, who use British Sign Language to communicate, have worn the shirts briefly as part of a demonstration, but have yet to experience the real thing.

Wilson said: “I could feel [the shirt] on my body and I thought: ‘Wow, is this what sound feels like?’ It was so different. I felt like it was alive.”

The launch has been driven by Newcastle’s sponsor, Saudi events company Sela, which for Saturday’s game will donate the space it normally has on the front of the club’s shirts to RNID, the national hearing loss charity.

Saturday’s match is being used to raise awareness of the 12 million people in the UK who are deaf or hard of hearing, and make attending a live game a more inclusive experience.

Teri Devine, the RNID’s director for inclusion, said: “Deaf people love sport as much as anybody else.

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