Author: Caroline Higgins
Published: January 19, 2011 at 8:56 pm
When your loved ones reside some distance from you, communication is usually enhanced with a quick text or a cell phone video chat. However this can have its drawbacks if either one of you is hearing impaired. This need prompted research by the University of Washington’s Engineering Department,
who began development of a device that is able to transmit sign language over cell networks.
The software, dubbed MobileASL (American Sign Language) increases image quality around the face and hands, as well as utilizing motion detection to tell if the person is signing or not. Last summer, the group
completed initial testing utilizing study participants who are either deaf or hard-of-hearing.
Most would assume that texting would be the way to go, but according to a student participating in the study, ” Texting sometimes is very slow,
because you send the message and you’re not sure that the person is going to get it right away,” adding, “With the MobileASL phone, people can see each
other eye to eye, face to face, and really have better understanding.”
Although some students also use video chat on their laptop or video phone, none of these existing technologies for sign language transmittal fit into your
purse or pocket.
The current tests are being performed on phones that were imported from Europe, but it is assumed that the MobileASL software will eventually be able to
run on any cell phone device.
The researchers are speaking with handset makers in hopes of making the software available on all cell phones. It is their hope that it won’t be long before the MobileASL feature is an available that turns everyday phone calls into something that will offer ease of use for the deaf.