A group of students at the University of East Anglia in the UK have developed a system called SISI (Say It, Sign It). Using speech/text recognition and what must be some good, and advanced, graphics software, a digital avatar does the signs.
BBC reports that IBM, who were running the program where SISI was developed, are pretty pleased with the result. There’s no lack of praise for the idea among potential users,either.
SISI has endless applications for the deaf and dumb. There’s a mass of products and services they can’t use because of their impairment, and this has opened up a lot of new possibilities. Conversion to other languages isn’t expected to be a problem, .
IBM operates an annual program called Extreme Blue, which allows technical and business students to work together for 12 weeks. SISI is a result of the program, and the assistance of a profoundly deaf mentor who was able to keep track of the translations from speech to sign language and ensure accuracy.
Despite the heroic (and one would have to say selfless) efforts of the sign language assistants of the world, the deaf are under-supplied with aids for communication. There just aren’t enough people, needs and priorities vary, and it means deaf and dumb people require a third party to communicate.
Although much has been achieved in providing services, nobody would pretend that there were enough, or that they fit all situations and circumstances. Daily life is tough enough for people with impairments without requiring an interpreter for the rest of the human race every time they need to communicate.
There are potentials here, and a lot of people could benefit, almost instantly. There are also possibilities for further development. It may be possible for this technique to be applied in reverse, using web cams to interact with speech software, translating for conversations with people who can't understand the sign language, online or on the phone, or video conferences. That removes some of the paraphernalia and social baggage required for a complex conversation, at least.
SISI looks like it’s going to achieve more with a flick of a hand than all previous efforts at deaf and dumb communications combined.