This Small Business Innovation Research Phase II project will result in a robust assistive technology, cost-wise accessible to deaf individuals and their families/service providers, as well as businesses, which functions as:

(1) An instructional tool to improve the literacy of deaf children and adults, and (2) A real-time translation device (i.e., between American Sign Language and English).

The technology will accommodate a variety of input and output options: Input: (1) typing, (2) scanning, (3) screen text transfer, (4) sensor-enabled glove (the AcceleGlove?), (5) 3-D camera, (6) speech recognition; and Output: (1) text, (2) sign graphics, (3) sign video clips, (4) speech.

The Instant ASL Communication System, as it is called, has two access modes: DVD, Web or local server-based access. This hardware/software system also will enable the user to edit, print, select appropriate signs when more than one match the English word and vice versa, ?hide? signs when support is not wanted, retrieve sign graphics/videos through an index, and generate flashcards and sign/word matching worksheets. The product will include a translation lexicon of 24,000 English words/phrases and 8,000 signs. Many deaf children are challenged by reading since this process largely depends on auditory understanding. Teachers of the deaf frequently reinterpret text into ASL or enhance it with signs to render it more comprehensible to their students. Research has shown that incorporation of signs with text provides a multimodal approach to the development of early literacy skills that utilizes multiple intelligences and learning styles.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is largely reflected in its effect on the Deaf community and those who interact with them. ASL is a visual/gestural language distinct from English. Many deaf people who rely on sign language do not have good facility with English. Because English is an auditory mediated language that depends upon phonological code, reading achievement scores of deaf children usually fall far short of those found among hearing children of comparable abilities. An interesting aspect of the low reading skill levels displayed by deaf students is that while they may not understand a sentence in print, they may understand it perfectly presented in ASL. This product will be tremendously useful to teachers, business personnel, speech/language pathologists, etc. who have a need to support understanding of English text with ASL signs for purposes of literacy improvement, curriculum enhancement, or communication. This product will enable English users to type, scan text, or paste screens text and have output in text with ASL graphics and/or video support. Inversely, deaf users will be able to sign to it and obtain English text and audio output. As a server-based translation service, there will be considerable impact on the ability of deaf individuals to be integrated into society at large for employment, education, and social purposes. Improvements to the AcceleGlove? will have implications to other fields of R&D, such as robotics, telemedicine, virtual reality, and defense. The gesture library will have utility to other gesture capture strategies (e.g., camera-based).

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Institute for Disabilities Research and Training, Inc.
silver spring
United States
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