Sign of the times
Life could get easier for deaf people thanks to an invention in development from IBM called SiSi (Say It Sign It) that automatically converts the spoken word into British Sign Language (BSL). This is then signed by an animated digital character or avatar.
SiSi brings incorporates speech recognition software which converts the spoken word into text, which SiSi then interprets into gestures, that are used to animate an avatar which signs in BSL.
According to IBM, when SiSi is in use, a signing avatar would pop up in the corner of the computer, PC or auditorium screen in which it has been installed. Users would be able select the size and appearance of the avatar.
During a live presentation or lecture, the speaker would have the signing avatar projected behind them, meaning deaf people can participate fully even if a sign language interpreter is not available in person.
Image courtesy of University of East Anglia, UK
An IBM avatar translates the spoken word 'performance' into the corresponding sign from British Sign Language
In collaboration with IBM, the University of East Anglia developed the signing avatars and the award-winning technology for animating sign language from a special gesture notation and the database of signs was developed by RNID (Royal National Institute for Deaf People).
SiSi has been developed in the UK by a research team at IBM Hursley, as part of IBM's premier global student intern programme, Extreme Blue.