Action Audio


Action Audio is an accessibility system for sports broadcasts that allows blind and low vision fans to follow the sports they love. It uses real-time ball monitoring technology and spatial sound design to give audiences insight into what’s happening, when it’s happening, without the need for visual information. It received global media attention when launched at the 2021 Australian Open tennis tournament.

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  • For the approximately 600,000 Australians living with blindness or low vision, the experience of broadcast sport is severely compromised. Televised coverage relies overwhelmingly on visual information, while radio commentary is often too slow to give fans a true sense of the live action. Our challenge was to use existing technologies to improve the broadcast experience for blind and low vision people, and allow them access to real-time match information in a way that is easy to understand, non-distracting and that could be enjoyed socially by people of all visual abilities.

  • Action Audio is a system for bringing real-time ball and player movements to life through spatial audio. The system uses data from ball tracking technologies generally used for point adjudication. By using this data as a feed, and translating it through a series of sound design principles, we can make on-court events 'viewable' through audio. The system was co-designed with blind sports fans to ensure the experience is as legible and enjoyable as possible. Design principles include: social consideration, the adoption of sound languages familiar with the blind sports community, accentuation of tension points and removal of distracting elements.

  • Action Audio launched during the finals of the 2021 Australian Open tennis tournament to a global audience of millions. It was provided as a free audio stream through the AO website, and simulcast on Vision Australia Radio. For many blind sports fans, it was the first time they could follow the Open live, alongside friends and family. The initiative received global media attention, including features in Fast Company, Digital Trends and Adweek. The ubiquity of the ball monitoring technology creates a huge opportunity for Action Audio to be implemented across many global events, and discussions to do so are ongoing.

  • Teams from design agency AKQA and Monash University worked collaboratively with the Blind Tennis Association and Blind Sports & Recreation Victoria to co-design the Action Audio experience with blind and low vision sports fans. The system underwent two years of iterative testing to create an experience that is both useful and enjoyable. Four key sound design principles guided the creation of Action Audio: Social Consideration - Much of the value that sports fans receive from watching sports is social, and blind fans are no different. Action Audio is designed for co-watching experiences by both low vision and sighted audiences. Existing Sound Languages - There is a rich and active global blind sports community that uses its own sound languages to participate in sports. Where appropriate, we have adopted elements of these languages for consistency and familiarity. Accentuated Tension Points - Sport is about pushing the limits. Our sound design emphasises dramatic moments within play, and signals when a breakthrough is likely approaching. Selective Auditory Attention - We filter out sounds around us in order to focus on relevant information. Action Audio should be designed to be 'filterable' so as not to override other necessary information or unnecessarily distract.