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IBM Research Demonstrates Innovative 'Speech to Sign Language' Translation System
[September 13, 2007]

IBM Research Demonstrates Innovative 'Speech to Sign Language' Translation System

(Market Wire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) HURSLEY, UK, September 13 / MARKET WIRE/ --

IBM (NYSE: IBM) has developed an ingenious
system called SiSi (Say It Sign It) that automatically converts the spoken
word into British Sign Language (BSL) which is then signed by an animated
digital character or avatar.

SiSi brings together a number of computer technologies. A speech
recognition module converts the spoken word into text, which SiSi then
interprets into gestures, that are used to animate an avatar which signs in

Upon development this system would see a signing avatar 'pop up' in the
corner of the display screen in use -- whether that be a laptop, personal
computer, TV, meeting-room display or auditorium screen. Users would be
able select the size and appearance of the avatar.

This type of solution has the potential in the future to enable a person
giving a presentation in business or education to have a digital character
projected behind them signing what they are saying. This would complement
the existing provision, allowing for situations where a sign language
interpreter is not available in person.

"IBM is committed to developing IT solutions that are inclusive and
accessible to all members of society," said Dr Andy Stanford-Clark, Master
Inventor, IBM Hursley.

"This technology has the potential to make life easier for the deaf
community by providing automatic signing for television broadcasts, and
making radio news and talk shows available to a new audience over the
Internet, or by providing automated voicemail transcription to allow them
to make better use of the mobile network."

Guido Gybels, Director of New Technologies at RNID, said: "RNID welcomes
any development that would make the Information Society a more equal place
for deaf and hard of hearing people. British Sign Language users are
amongst the most disenfranchised citizens as a result of services and
products not being designed with their needs in mind. There is clearly
still a long way to go before such prototypes become fully capable,
off-the-shelf products, but it is encouraging to see that mainstream
research is contributing to this objective of a more inclusive society."

John Glauert, Professor of Computing Sciences, UEA, said: "SiSi is an
exciting application of UEA's avatar signing technology that promises to
give deaf people access to sign language services in many new

This project is an example of IBM's collaboration with non-commercial
organisations on worthy social and business projects. The signing avatars
and the award-winning technology for animating sign language from a special
gesture notation were developed by the University of East Anglia and the
database of signs was developed by RNID (Royal National Institute for Deaf

With an estimated 55,000 people in the UK for whom BSL is their first
language, there are great opportunities for businesses, including firms in
the leisure and entertainment industries, to make themselves more
accessible to this audience, and also to communicate more effectively with

SiSi has been developed in the UK by a research team at IBM Hursley, as
part of IBM's premier global student intern programme, Extreme Blue. In the
European part of the programme, 80 of the most talented students from
across Europe were selected to work on 20 projects and given whatever
equipment, support and assistance they required. Working for an intense 12
week period alongside IBM technical and industry leaders, they focused on
innovative technology projects, such as SiSi, all of which had real
business value.

For a video demonstration of the SiSi technology, visit the following url:

About IBM

For more information on IBM, visit

About Extreme Blue

This is IBM's ultimate global summer internship programme, for some of the
most talented students to work with IBM technical and industry leaders on
innovative cutting edge technology projects, with real business value.
Between 2002 and 2006 these have generated over 390 patent disclosure
submissions, 70 client demonstrations, 66 open source contributions, and 38
solutions have been integrated into IBM products and services.

The SiSi Team

The following students worked on SiSi alongside IBM technical and industry
leaders and in collaboration with the University of East Anglia and RNID
(Royal National Institute for Deaf People):

Benjamin Cox, Masters in Engineering and Computing Science, University of

Tom Klapiscak, Masters in Artificial Intelligence, University of Durham.

Maria Vihljajeva, Business Management with Business Economics, University
of Glasgow.

Josef Waldron, Computer Science, University of Durham.

About University of East Anglia

The University of East Anglia (UEA) builds on an award-winning track record
of research in animation of Sign Language for deaf people through Simon the
Signer (Royal Television Society awards) and TESSA (BCS Gold Medal). The
main contribution of the early work was to engineer systems using
linguistic processing (teletext analysis and speech recognition
respectively) to compose smoothly-blended sequences of motion captured
signing data.

More recently the Virtual Humans group at the School of Computing Sciences
at UEA has developed a unique and ground breaking system for synthesised
animation from HamNoSys, the internationally established notation for
transcribing sign, integrated with a state of the art avatar animation
platform that combines precise skeletal animation with accurate facial

Current applications in education include support of automated assessment
of IT skills with the ESRC and the Scottish Qualifications Authority, and
development of materials to support deaf literacy commissioned for the BBC
Digital Curriculum.

About RNID

RNID is the largest charity working to change the world for the UK's 9
million deaf and hard of hearing people. We do this with the help of our
members by campaigning and lobbying, raising awareness of deafness and
hearing loss, providing services and through social, medical and technical

For further information about RNID or to become a member, visit, contact RNID's Information Line on 0808 808 0123
(freephone) or 0808 808 9000 (textphone) or email

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For additional information contact:
Steven Tomasco

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