Deaf news: Portable sign language translator app “will allow deaf to talk to anyone”

Posted on March 12, 2012

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Well. Just a week after Mark Nelson wrote about how technological advances and the rise of voice recognition could leave deaf people behind – in his ‘Peak Deaf Access’ theory, this story appears in the Metro.

Apparently, a portable sign language translator app has been invented, that will allow deaf people “to talk to everyone.”

The article says that “sign language can be used in front of a camera built into a laptop, tablet or phone and the app will instantly translate gestures into text on the screen.”

(“Gestures”? Surely they mean “signs.”)

The app will be available in late 2013 and is said to be affordable. The makers claim the app has a customisation tool and can cater for regional variations.

Sounds amazing – I’d love to hear from anyone who has tried this out.

The big question for deaf people will be ‘how well will it actually work?’

Bearing in mind the complexity of sign language, taking in facial expressions, hand movements and body language (for starters), plus the difficulty companies have had in the past of creating equivalent systems, this statement from the article: “It will work on all types of phones – no matter how cheap they are, as long as they have a camera” doesn’t fill me with confidence.

But I’m ready to be proved wrong.

Update: this BBC news article offers further background on the development of the App

By Charlie Swinbourne, Editor