We have an auditorium used for classes. The classes are given in English. We have several international students who speak English, but have trouble keeping up with the pace of a lecture in English. To assist them, we want to add "subtitles" in their native language. (We'll hire someone to type the subtitles in real time as the lecturer is speaking).

Are there good "subtitle screens" for this? I was thinking something like an LED display might work well, but I can't find anything in the consumer range. Ideally, we want something we can connect to a wireless network and send text in real time from a networked computer. The screen does not need to display anything except the text we send it. It needs to support unicode text.

  • @RichardChambers We already record and transcribe the lectures and make them available. We want the subtitles in addition so the international students can interact more with the class (for example getting to know their peers and asking questions during the lecture). Nov 14 '17 at 7:11
  • I am curious if you have discussed this with the international students and gotten their opinions as to what would be helpful. Intensive English as a Second Language classes may be a better approach especially classes that concentrate on the technical language used in the classes. One of the reasons the students attend your university may be English immersion. You do not mention the diversity of the classes however it sounds like you have only international students from a particular area so only Mandarin or only Arabic is needed? Will that change next semester? Nov 14 '17 at 14:00
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    @RichardChambers You're right, English immersion is part of why they're here. They actually asked for the subtitles. They don't want it as a replacement for speaking English, they want it as an assistant. When you're dealing with ESL, the difference between "kind of following" and "getting it" can be only 10%! They want the subtitles to help with that 10% and to listen to the rest of the content in plain English. Thanks for all your ideas! Nov 14 '17 at 17:41
  • On the technical side, how large is the classroom to be used and the placement of the display? How much text and what size font along with colors would be used? I suppose it were best that it is configured.The price point bends pretty sharply above say 32 inch and going to a 2K or more resolution. Are you thinking of something like a standard LED display that is being driven by say a Raspberry Pi or similar computer over HDMI? Possibly using a Pi with Chromium in kiosk mode and making changes that are pushed down via a server such as node.Js? Nov 14 '17 at 18:07
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    @RichardChambers We don't have any specific thoughts on screen size, font size, color, etc - just that it should be legible. The auditorium is a 3/4 arena layout with about 200 seats. There are no seats more than 20 feet from the stage. I have no experience with Pi, but it's a very intriguing idea, especially with the ability push changes from a server you're suggesting. What components would I need to make that work? - and no, the system does not need to support mathematical symbols or equations. Nov 14 '17 at 19:56

Thinking about this what you are wanting is what amounts to a one way chat application. Someone is typing into a chat window and what they type is displayed on the LED displays.

What the LED display will display will depend on the software driving the display so the crucial detail would seem to be the need to have a computing device that supports UTF-8 and Unicode with fonts with the necessary symbol set for the language desired.

There are a number of open source chat type systems such as described in 5 open source alternatives to Slack for team chat. The question would be what support any of these have for non-Western languages such as Mandarin or Arabic. Languages such as Mandarin and Japanese have a large symbol set and Arabic is written right to left rather than left to right and there are various kinds of ligatures between symbols.

Or I suppose you could just have a remote session to a full screen word processing application and just type into that and let it scroll up and off the screen? That actually might be the easiest approach as the necessary multi-lingual capabilities should be available and you can change the font size easily.

I would consider using a Raspberry Pi 3 or similar small device to drive the LED displays. The Raspberry Pi has several alternative operating systems with Raspbian, a Linux variant, being the standard default. The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B has built in WiFi, 1 GB of RAM, and an HDMI display output. You could set up a device such as a laptop or even a phone and remote into the Raspberry Pi.

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