Project acronym: Dicta-Sign
Project full title: Sign Language Recognition, Generation and Modelling with Application in Deaf Communication
Dicta-Sign has been a three-year EU-funded research project that aimed at making online communications more accessible to deaf sign language users.
The development of Web 2.0 technologies has made the WWW a place where people constantly interact with each other, by posting information (e.g. blogs, discussion forums), modifying and enhancing other people's contributions (e.g. Wikipedia), and sharing information (e.g., Facebook, social news sites). Unfortunately, all these technologies are not friendly to sign language users, because they require the use of written language.
Can't sign language videos fulfill the same role as written text in these new technologies? In a word, no. Videos have two problems: First, they are not anonymous – anyone can recognize from the video who made a contribution, which holds many people back who otherwise would be eager to contribute. Second, people cannot easily edit and add to a video that someone else has produced, so a Wikipedia-like web site in sign language is not possible.
Dicta-Sign's goal has been to develop the necessary technologies that make Web 2.0 interactions in sign language possible: Users sign to a webcam using a dictation style. The computer recognises the signed phrases, converts them into an internal representation of sign language, and then has an animated avatar sign them back to the users. Content on the Web is then contributed and disseminated via the signing avatars. Moreover, the internal representation also allows us to develop sign language-to-sign language translation services, analogous to the Google translator.
This way, Dicta-Sign aimed to solve both problems that sign language videos have. The avatar is anonymous, and its uniform signing style guarantees that contributions can be easily altered and expanded upon by any sign language user.