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Researchers to develop app that translates sign language into text

Young people can encounter a number of obstacles to full-time employment, but it seems that communication-enhancing technology may be able to help them overcome these issues.

A new computer program called the Portable Sign Language Translator (PSLT) could transform the lives of deaf and hard of hearing individuals around the world, according to researchers in Scotland.

The software, which is a first of its kind, translates sign language into written text almost instantaneously and can be used on a range of devices and media platforms.

Scientists at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland believe the development will have an enormous impact on the lives of young people who are deaf and may encounter communication difficulties in the workplace.

Dr Ernesto Compatangelo, a lecturer in computing science at the university, said the scientists who worked on the program hope to make an app based on the software, but are happy it can already be used on laptops and other portable devices.

"One of the most innovative and exciting aspects of the technology is that it allows sign language users to actually develop their own signs for concepts and terms they need to have in their vocabulary, but they may not have been able to express easily when using British Sign Language," he explained.

Dr Compatangelo made it clear that the research was based on overcoming communication disadvantages and that further work needed to be done to make the program more accessible.

"The key intent is to enable sign language users … to overcome the communication disadvantage they experience, allowing them to fulfil their education potential and enter the job market," commented Compatangelo.

But sign language is just one of the applications for technology of this kind and it has been suggested that the same software could help people with mobility problems use household appliances with greater ease.

Posted by Aimee McBride