Computer scientists in Scotland are developing technology that can translate sign language into text through a simple webcam. The technology, which has the potential to run on variety of camera-enabled digital devices, could be a big help to speech-impaired users trying to communicate, especially with members of the non-signing world.
A full-fledged version of the software, called Portable Sign Language Translator (PSLT), is being developed by Technabling Ltd. (that's Tech-nabling, not Techa-bling, btw), an offshoot of Aberdeen University specializing in technological solutions to physical and mental disabilities. PSLT aims to help young learners with speech difficulties, to empower mobility- and speech-challenged users to issue commands to their appliances and devices, and to allow people with speech difficulties to customize their language settings to a variety of regional variations and personal preferences.
“The aim of the technology is to empower sign language users by enabling them to overcome the communication challenges they can experience, through portable technology," says Technabling's Director Dr. Ernesto Compatangelo, via The Scotsman. "The user signs into a standard camera integrated into a laptop, netbook, Smartphone or other portable device such as a tablet. Their signs are immediately translated into text which can be read by the person they are conversing with."
The technology will be portable, flexible, and customizable, stresses the company (although they spelled the latter with an "s"). When completed, PSLT will be released as an app for a variety of smart phones, tablets, and computers running Linux or Windows (provided they have a camera). It will be available for use with a variety of sign languages, including British Sign Language, Makaton, Technabling's own Customisable Sign Language, and others (including ASL). Users will also be able to customize the app to a variety of jargon and idiosyncratic sign preferences.
Not only will the camera help consumers use technology in their native language, it will also enable them to communicate in public in the absence of a speaking translator. Technabling also mentions that PSLT will benefit independent sign language learners. In the absence of a trained, fluent teacher, the software will be able to provide immediate feedback to learners, helping them make sure they are learning to sign correctly.
Photo Source: PhysOrg.