There are great inventions being made to enhance daily lives for deaf people – from an app that brings “alerts” to their phones to a VEST that they can wear to hear environmental sounds. All in all, a lot of technological innovations are being made to enhance a deaf person’s life, but where are we when it comes to interactions with a deaf and non deaf people? We have seen MotionSavvy’s UNI break social barriers by providing face to face, seamless interaction between a deaf and hearing person using their mobile devices, but are there others out there who are wanting to break these barriers further and keep enhancing experiences for everyone?
Igor and Vlad Dudnyk, students at IBM International University College and founders of VisiTalks, are setting out to do just that. Through their software and hardware combination, they have developed a mechanism for deaf people to interact with other hearing people using video calling via their computers. The idea is very simple – A deaf user will wear a special glove with sensors (18 sensors for accurate tracking) that will interact with a computer with the VisiTalks software installed and calibrated with the glove. When a deaf user is communicating with another hearing person who doesn’t know sign language, their signs will get get converted to regular speech for the other person, and when the other person speaks into their mic, that speech is grabbed by the VisiTalks software and converted to signs. The hearing doesn’t even need any special setup on their computer.
The software setup allows the deaf person to set a language for themselves (ASL/BSL etc.) and voice (male/female), accents (American, British etc.) for their hearing counterparts.
This is a very positive step towards making communication much easier between deaf and hearing people, and to end any level of apprehension either party may have towards initiating conversation. VisiTalks is a non commercial project which means that it will be free for everyone. However, development of this concept is not cheap, and since both Igor and Vlad are still students, they don’t have the necessary funding required to bring this project to the masses. That is why they are seeking donations from everyone. They have setup a Indiegogo funding page and have roughly another 48 days to meet their goal of $42,500.
If you or your institution thinks that this will be a great resource for deaf people (which it really is), go to their funding page and donate. It is always great to see students taking initiative to change the way we live our lives. We hope to see VisiTalks soon as a product available to everyone!