Avatars Expand Internet Access for the Deaf


Computer scientists from Saarbrucken in Germany have developed an approach where animated online characters display content in sign language. Researchers Alexis Heloir and Fabrizio Nunnari, working with Peter Schaar, a lecturer for German sign language at the Saarland University Language Center and the College of Engineering and commerce in Saarbrucken, have created avatars that make accentuated movements. While avatars have been seen as a means to expand communication to the deaf, the researchers found that simply animating them to resemble human beings didn’t provide the greater variety of emotional expressions that humans need to effectively communicate.

To capture the motions of deaf people, the scientists use affordable cameras and sensors, making the process inexpensive and easy to use. A computing method then transfers the movements of the entire body onto the avatar. The long-term goal is to create a collection of short sign language sequences that can be used by the deaf to interact on the Web. Animated characters could also be used to provide information quickly in cases where there is no interpreter, for example, in public forums such as train stations and airports.
[ScienceDaily, August 2014]