Accessibility & Assistive Technology

Avatar (3D interpretation) and Its Direct Relation to the Deaf Community

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When it comes to inventions and technological assistance for the hearing impaired, science has come a long way, there is absolutely no doubt about that. However, we live in a day and age where humans, by default, are genetically engineered to want more and to crave more, which is completely acceptable. With standards of living going up with each passing sense, it makes sense that individuals with any kind of impairments demand more than just hearing aids.

Thankfully today, with the immense leap forward of Artificial Intelligence, more and more research is being undertaken to come up with better solutions. One such invention is the Avatar technology or the 3D interpretation technology.

What is the Avatar technology?

As the name suggests, the Avatar technology is basically the 3-dimensional translation of any closed captions. The idea is that there is a certain interface, artificial intelligence or otherwise, which is capable of understanding the text, will automatically generate the written text into sign language for the deaf individual to understand. This interpretation is constructed based on a dictionary of words and signs that is already fed to the device. People can keep adding things or words to this dictionary, but only when their words are approved by a set of learned linguists and human interpreters.

Why would anyone need the Avatar technology?

  • You see, it is not exactly fair to expect every single hearing-impaired individual to learn sign language as well as all of the languages that comes along with functioning in an everyday environment and living an average life. Every sign language has its fair share of grammar, and it gets difficult to translate that grammar into visuals.
  • Then, there is the issue of basic differences between the kinds of sign languages in various other languages. For instance, the American Sign Language (ASL) is different from the German Sign Language (DGS). Therefore, a hearing impaired German citizen cannot completely communicate with a hearing impaired Indian citizen.
  • Another issue is the lack of understanding of sign language on the part of the listener. In an everyday situation, it cannot and is not possible to expect that a completely abled person will know and use sign language, which is a problem since signing has to be a two-way form of communication. Therefore, the deaf individual will be left at a loss.

At this point, the 3d technology would prove to be tremendously useful, because, as the idea goes, the interface would have a whole lot of sign language gestures fed to it. This would help both individuals communicate without the barrier of language. At the same time, it would also help individuals who do not know sign language communicate with deaf individuals.

Singing through Virtual Reality:

One of the ways in which 3d is being widely used to make sign language easier and more universal, is through capture motion. The basic idea is that an individual wears motion capture gloves and keeps signing with these, and then, the computer, equipped with motion tracks makes a record of those movements and directly translates it into text or visual language. The very idea of this saw light back in the year 2002, when a teenager by the name of Ryan Patterson developed such a glove that understood and comprehended the signs made by the person wearing the gloves, and proceeded to generate a written text and sent it directly to a portable device.

Of course, over the years, more and more complex and multitasking ways of such 3d capture have emerged to take the pace of this kind of glove. For instance, there are the neural networks, which take this to the next step by not only capturing the hand motion, but also detecting the slight changes or aberrations in them from person to person, and even detect or develop a significant pattern between such hand gestures.

Why the need for 3d translations of sign language?

It is understandable that people may ask the need to translate closed captions into 3d sign language. Especially when it comes to written texts, deaf people can read, so why this technology? You see, a deaf person’s first language is not their native language, but their native sign language, and native sign languages differ from one country to another. For deaf individuals, who primarily learn their sign language, learning a written language is harder. For instance, for an average deaf American, learning English is harder than learning that American Sign Language. This is the reason why a lot of deaf individuals have issues reading and writing.

Thus, a lot of websites, in order to make written materials more readily available, use videos where someone automatically signs the written text. However, the major problem is that such videos need to be completely edited from the beginning, whenever the written text is edited. This costs time and money. This is where 3d signing comes in. The visually captured motions of sign language are first fed to the 3D avatar. This is then presented as sign language with motion blending.

What is the state of the 3D Sign language translation today?

Unfortunately, although sign language is not universal, not a lot of progress has been made when it comes to the Avatar technology, and more funding is required for research. The major cause of this, is of course, the lack of a common sign language.

Since languages keep on changing from region to region, it becomes extremely difficult to feed the signs of one word from every single language into the dictionary of the interface, not to mention that creating such a huge dictionary would cost a lot of money, and would basically render the machine inaccessible to almost most of the people. Proposals are being set forth about the setting up of a common community which decides on a universal sign language, which more or less, incorporate the signs and symbols from the major or the most spoken sign language.

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