As mentioned earlier, I'm going to stray from normal topics for a couple posts while I complete a school project, so just bear with me and I'll get back to knitting as soon as I finish this (and when my yarn gets delivered...).
Say It, Sign It
For my first emerging technology, I chose to talk about a technology that has just been making headlines this month. It’s a newly developed technology from IBM that translates speech into sign language, called ““Say It, Sign It” or “SiSi” . Here’s an example of how it works: (Video from YouTube)
The speech is first turned into text using speech recognition software and then SiSi is able to convert the text to animated signing in British Sign Language (BSL). It was developed in 12 weeks by a group of interns in IBM’s internship program Extreme Blue with cooperation from the University of East Anglia and the RNID (Royal National Institute for Deaf People). (MarketWatch Article)
This technology has the possibility of making it much simpler for companies to integrate deaf team members into meetings and conference calls when a qualified interpreter is not readily available. Because of the simultaneous translation, time would not have to been taken to communicate through writing or special accommodations made to allow for speech-reading. This not only allows for integration of deaf workers but also gives them a more equal footing with everyone else in the meeting and does so in a timely manner.
It could also be used to make other applications user friendly for deaf users both in the workplace, such as translating voicemail, and at home, such as translating television or radio programs. This techonological tool would work best for translating presentations given in a lecture format.
There are a number of drawbacks to the current edition of this program. The system is not currently commercially available and is only able to translate to British Sign Language, which limits the use of this technology to only users of BSL. However, a student who was working on the program said it should be fairly easy to further develop the system so that translation into other signed languages was available. (BBC article)
Also, the SiSi system can only translate one way, from speech to sign, as opposed to an interpreter who can also translate from sign to speech. This means that the communication advantages provided by this program only work in one direction. Deaf workers would not be able to use this system to contribute easily to the conversation in their first language (usually a signing language) and would have to rely on an interpreter or a spoken or written language. As seen in the comments on the YouTube example of this software some people are already very critical of this flaw and I can understand their point of view.
However, overall I do believe this new technology will be a great tool to assist organizations in intergrating and including deaf workers and will increase the speed at and extent to which they are able to do so.
Visual Interpreter turns speech into sign language. (September 13, 2007). Retrieved September 25, 2007, from CBC.ca Website: http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2007/09/13/tech-deaf-avatar.html
Adams-Spink, G. (September 15, 2007). Technique links words to signing. Retrieved September 25, 2007, from BBC News Website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6993326.stm
IBM Research Demonstrates Innovative ‘Speech to Sign Language’ Translation System. (September 13, 2007). Retrieved September 25, 2007, from MarketWatch Website: http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/ibm-research-demonstrates-innovative-speech/story.aspx?guid=%7B57DE2EA8-D02B-4B9E-90F6-80EE757D441E%7D
IBM Research Demonstrates Innovative 'Speech to Sign Language' Translation System. (September 12, 2007). Retrieved September 25, 2007, from IBM Website: http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/22316.wss
IBM Voice-to-Sign Language Translation Tech. (September 12, 2007). Retrieved September 25, 2007), from YouTube Website: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RarMKnjqzZU