Computer Translated Sign Language

There are many people in the world who cannot hear because their hearing ability is impaired. This disability also precludes them from holding audible conversations with others. For a long time, telephone calls dominated the long-distance communication scenario. However, over the past couple of decades, other means of communication have also evolved, such as emails and text-based messaging. Although these supplement voice calls largely, the problem of face-to-face communication with the deaf still remains.

Using sign language is one means of face-to-face communication that the hearing-impaired use and this is as efficient as their methods of communication using smartphones, tablets and computers. Similar to using any other language, two people can communicate face-to-face only when both are capable of using the sign language. Lately, communication between two individuals is now easier because of the use of translators in computers. This allows the user to understand even when they do not understand the spoken language.

Now MotionSavvy is using the same technology for translating sign language to another language that the user can understand. They are using a dedicated tablet, Uni, created to enable efficient two-way communication between those who can hear and those whose hearing is impaired.

Uni involves the use of two distinct technologies. First, it monitors sign language by using integrated cameras and interprets the signs using a special recognition software. Then it translates the signs into spoken words. The other part of the technology involves converting spoken words into text. This happens when the other person responds by speaking. Uni converts this speech into text, displaying it on the screen for the deaf person to read.

The World Federation of the Deaf claims there are more than 70 million deaf people in the world. With the technology offered by MotionSavvy, there is a dramatic potential to influence the lives of such people.

MotionSavvy is launching Uni with the ability to read at least 2000 signs initially. They will be issuing updates for adding more signs. However, they are offering SignBuilder software, with which users can configure new signs.

Uni is available in two versions – hardware and software. You can buy the hardware device that includes the software, or the software alone. You can use the software-only solution on a computer that has the Leap Motion controller. For both solutions, users need to pay a monthly subscription that allows them access to SignBuilder and CrowdSign.

The basic Uni Dictionary contains about 2000 signs. Although this confers the ability to hold meaningful conversations, individuals can add new vocabulary to Uni Dictionary with the help of SignBuilder. They can also share the new signs with others on the Uni network, by using the software CrowdSign. MotionSavvy expects the number of signs to grow exponentially with people using the two software programs.

At present, Uni is able to recognize signing by hands in front of its camera. Eventually, MotionSavvy expects to implement recognition of all facial emotions. Uni is working for people using signs such as CASE or SEE. MotionSavvy is working on improving recognition and adding more features to accommodate culturally strong ASL users as well.