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How Newcastle F.C.'s ‘sound shirt’ is transforming live sports for deaf fans

 Newcastle United introduce ‘sound shirts’ for deaf supporters
Newcastle United introduce ‘sound shirts’ for deaf supporters Copyright Credit: Cute Circuit
Copyright Credit: Cute Circuit
By Theo Farrant
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Developed by CuteCircuit, the innovative shirt uses advanced haptic technology to translate stadium sounds into immersive physical sensations.


A huge part of any live sporting event, that often goes overlooked, is the symphony of sounds that surround us: the chants, the clapping, the cheers, the groans, and even the boos.

But for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, this electrifying experience has remained a void - until now.

In a first-of-its-kind innovation, Newcastle United F.C. has introduced a revolutionary piece of wearable technology for their deaf fans: the "Sound Shirt."

The shirt, which looks like an ordinary football jersey, enables match attendees to "feel" the buzz of St James' Park, helping to create a more immersive live experience.

CuteCircuit testing Newcastle United's sound shirts
CuteCircuit testing Newcastle United's sound shirts Credit: CuteCircuit

Developed by the world's first wearable technology fashion brand company CuteCircuit, the Sound Shirt translates audio signals from strategically placed microphones around the stadium into touch sensations.

"It's really wonderful for us as designers, as well as inventors, to see that our technology can positively affect someone's life, especially someone really young," Francesca Rosella, who co-founded CuteCircuit alongside Ryan Genz, shared with Euronews Culture.

How the shirt came about

The Sound Shirt concept evolved from one of CuteCircuit’s earlier inventions, the Hug Shirt, which allows people to send hugs over long distances.

"After a few years of developing the Hug Shirt, concert venues began reaching out to us. They said, 'We have some people with deaf friends who would love to share the concert experience with them. Do you think that they could use the Hug Shirt to feel the music?' And we thought, 'Yes, that sounds really possible,'" explains Genz.

Following this success, Newcastle United and their sponsor Sela approached CuteCircuit with a new challenge: could they bring the stadium’s atmosphere alive for their deaf fans?

The tech company were up for the task. What they created was a custom-designed Sound Shirt that was able to capture the diverse sounds of the club's massive 55,000-seat stadium and convert them into tactile feedback for the wearer.

"It feels like you're wearing the stadium"

The shirt is far more than a simple device that merely vibrates during the louder moments. The smart fabric is embedded with a network of actuators that map the stadium's sounds onto the wearer's body. This mapping is so precise that fans can sense exactly where in the stadium the noise is coming from.

"Anything that's happening on the south side of the stadium, you feel it on the right-hand side. And anything on the north side of the stadium, you feel it on the left-hand side. So you can actually tell where activity is happening within the stadium just on what you're feeling in the shirt" Genz elaborates.

Newcastle United's new sound shirt
Newcastle United's new sound shirt Credit: Sela/CuteCircuit

The shirt also distinguishes sound by frequency, further enhancing the wearer's immersion. "High-frequency noises, like clapping, are felt at the top of the shirt. Lower-frequency sounds, such as shouting or stomping, are sensed lower down, closer to your gut."

Remarkably, the sound shirt is also entirely wireless. All the technology is integrated into the fabric itself, making it look and feel just like a regular shirt.

A future where no fan is left on the sidelines

The Sound Shirt was launched on 13 April during Newcastle's clash with Tottenham Hotspur, giving deaf fans their first taste of the technology.


It was a resounding success. Rosella reflects: "Their feedback has been truly amazing. One of the most common comments from users is that they feel more connected, which for us is incredible. For a deaf person to finally feel connected and fully immersed in the game, feeling like they are genuinely part of it for the first time, was our ambition."

She adds: "Some of the children have even said, 'This changed my life. I feel like I am part of the team now."

The overwhelmingly positive response from fans and the broader community signals a bright future for this kind of technology, and Newcastle United F.C. have openly encouraged other clubs to embrace similar initiatives.

As Rosella points out, “Every club would love to have this technology. Inclusivity is crucial, and respecting and engaging all fans should be a priority for everyone."


Check out the video above to see our interview with the Sound Shirt developers Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz.

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