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How To Learn Sign Language

Animating Online Text Into Sign Language

What happens is, its electrical resistance
changes, this material, when it’s bent. And that’s how it tries to interpret how much
it should show the joint bending right there. My research is in the area of designing animations
of American Sign Language that would have benefits for people who are deaf or hard of
hearing and who use American Sign Language to communicate. If you look at educational statistics for
people who are deaf, graduating high school, the average literacy skill in written English
for deaf adults is around the level of a fourth-grade child. Many people who grow up deaf do not develop
enough skill at reading and writing in English. So part of it has to do with the idea that,
normally, infants will hear their parents using the language around them. And they practice
and learn those patterns. For deaf child, they’re never going to experience
spoken English being used around them, in context, as an infant, and they’re not going
to develop that skill in English. And if you can produce animations that are
easier to understand, and move more in the way that humans do, then people who are deaf
might be able to understand the information that’s presented in the form of sign language
more easily, than if it had been presented in English text. People have been trying to design animation
systems for American Sign Language maybe for about fifteen years or so. Right now, what you’d have to do to make a
really beautiful sign language animation, is do the same kind of work that a movie studio
would do to make an animated picture. Where for a minute of video, you have hundreds,
well dozens, of hours of time of a human planning all the movements of the character. What our laboratory would like to do is let
you tell us: “I want a sentence with these six signs.” And our software will produce
a natural looking sentence with those six signs. So, we use a variety of equipment. We use
motion capture data gloves. We also use a body suit that looks like a spandex suit that
has little sensors attached to it, similar to the technology in the Wii remote that’s
part of people’s video game systems. They also wear a head-mounted sensor that
tells us where their head is in the room. So, that way, we know how their eye is aimed,
and we know where their head is, and so we can tell where they’re looking in a room. Within the U.S., our laboratory is the leading
site for studying how to produce animations of American Sign Language. I think what’s unique about us, within the
United States, is that we have a lot of participation of people who are deaf in our project, and
we collect a lot of samples of signing from those people, so that the movements of our
animated characters are based mathematically on the ways that actual humans were moving
to do this signing. I have been working with Matt on this project
for four years, and in the first three years, we have been working hard to collect the motion-capture
corpus, using the equipment. And I feel very interested working with deaf students. I find
my work is very useful for them. (So, what I’d like you to do is aim your head,
and sort of focus it towards the center, and then hold your head still, but then just look
with your eyes, at each of these points. So, are you ready? Yes. OK.) This is my first year. I always like human
computer interaction and using all that I’m learning hopefully to help people. (Number two.) Up to now, I am working on this stuff and
reading on how it is possible to represent facial expressions, and what we have to use,
what tool we have to use, to model them. (Number eight.) I think one of the big advances that’s going
to come about from sign language animation technology is that we’re going to see animated
characters with signing in more places. Basically, it’s producing a smarter dictionary
of signs, that lets someone, with less effort, produce the customized version of each sign
that they need, to create a particular sentence or message.

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