Sign language in virtual worlds makes life easier for deaf people: IBM
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Sign language in virtual worlds makes life easier for deaf people: IBM

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Researchers at IBM Technology called SiSi (Say It Sign It), has developed a technology that translates spoken or written words into British Sign Language (BSL).

The technology was created by a group of students in the UK. SiSi is expected to enable deaf people to have simultaneous sign language interpretations of meetings and presentations. The technology uses speech recognition to animate a digital character or avatar. The technology will allow for interpretation in situations where a human interpreter is not available. It could be used to provide automatic signing for television, radio and telephone calls. The concept has gained the approval of the Royal National Institute for Deaf people (RNID).

Sign language users are considered among the most disenfranchised citizens as a result of services and products not being designed with their needs in mind. IBM runs a yearly initiative called Extreme Blue which invites technically-minded and business students to collaborate for 12 weeks. The students used two signing avatars developed by the University of East Anglia. One of them signs in BSL and the other uses Sign Supported English – a more direct translation using conventional syntax and grammar. Converting SiSi to use other languages should also be straightforward. Creating a system that can actually bridge the gap between hearing people who speak English and deaf people who use BSL is very important. The system, called 'SiSi' (Say It Sign It) works by using speech recognition to convert a conversation into text. The system is however still a prototype, which works only with British Sign Language.

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