Sign Language for Cell Phones

For the hearing-impaired, communicating via cell phone has largely been limited to text messaging. Now, a team of researchers at the University of Washington has developed software that incorporates video so that American Sign Language can be used on mobile phones.

Because video requires much faster transmission speeds than text, the low transmission rates and limited processing power of devices available in the United States have prevented the development of real-time video transmission. The MobileASL project will work on improving video compression, which could facilitate communication on slower services.

“The faster networks are not available everywhere,” says doctoral student Anna Cavender. “They also cost more. We don’t think it’s fair for someone who’s deaf to have to pay more for his or her cell phone than someone who’s hearing.”

A working prototype of the MobileASL phone can be viewed on YouTube:

One response to “Sign Language for Cell Phones

  1. MobileASL is a video compression project at the University of Washington with the goal of making wireless cell phone communication through sign language a reality in the U.S. With the advent of cell phone PDAs with larger screens and photo/video capture, people who communicate with American Sign Language (ASL) could utilize these new technologies. However, due to the low bandwidth of the U.S. wireless telephone network, even today’s best video encoders likely cannot produce the quality video needed for intelligible ASL.

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