New software translates any spoken language into sign language


Apart from being the summer capital of the Philippines, Baguio can now boast to be the birthplace of one of the greatest innovations in communication for the hard of hearing.

The thesis project of eight IT students at Saint Louis University is a computer program that uses animation to teach sign langauge. Project leader Ahmed Abdullah Khayef described the program as a dictionary for people who hope to learn or teach sign language.

“[Although] there are already existing technologies…they are language-specific. My  project is different because it…can accommodate all languages across nations. You can have your ‘jejemon’ sign language…when you input the word, pick the sign elements, then save it and when the user types the same word, he can view the avatar [demonstrating] the sign language.”

The program uses an avatar to teach a user standard sign language and also to create his own sign code for any word. “Users themselves can pick [the gestures] to animate the sign. So eventually, you can create your own sign language, like for ‘jejemon,'” he says.

Khayef’s team researched for their thesis by visiting schools for the hearing-impaired to learn more about their language—learning how poorly equipped hearing teachers are to teach what to them is a borrowed language.