Technology that translates sign language into text is being developed by scientists at the University of Aberdeen in Aberdeen, United Kingdom. The software application is the first of its kind that can be used on portable devices and allows users to customize sign language to their own needs.
The Portable Sign Language Translator (PSLT) will have the potential to transform how sign language users communicate, from individuals who are profoundly deaf to those who lost hearing later in life.
Computing scientists at Technabling, a spin-out company of the University of Aberdeen, are behind the technology that seeks to bridge the gap between sign language and more standard forms of communication. A main focus is to help young people who are deaf gain employment opportunities.
"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," said Ernesto Compatangelo, founder and director of Technabling and a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen. "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 intent is to develop an app that is easily accessible and could be used on different devices."
The technology also will allow sign language users to develop their own signs for concepts and terms they need to have in their vocabulary but may not have been able to express easily in standard sign language.
The research is being funded by the U.K. Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.