We chose to look into problems of deaf and deaf-mute people. Although this handicap might not be obvious compared to a person in a wheelchair in the first glance if you pass a deaf-mute person on the street, it still affects the daily life and can exclude people from most interactions in society. Not only in public, but also in their own home it affects communication as for example normal phone calls are not possible if the deaf person cannot hear their conversational partner and cannot talk themselves. We thus chose the impairment area of deaf-mute people to create a solution to enhance their life.
Initial Problem Description
As named above, we believe it is not possible for deaf-mute people to make a normal phone call. As people with an hearing (and speaking) impairment cannot use a communication mean relying only on audio, they are excluded from using a normal phone, or even from using a softphone on the computer. Software solutions that include video chat can be used if only deaf people or people knowing sign language are talking to each other. But for people not knowing sign language, an additional video channel is of no help either. Text based chats could be a solution, and we believe that they are often used. Nevertheless they have the disadvantage, that typing is much slower than talking, and – as we believe – also as using sign language. An automated translation between sign language and audio (to listen to) or text (to read) is according to our knowledge missing.
The missing automatic transformation between sign language and spoken language for synchronous communication could also be a problem in emergency situations. The German fire brigade offers in general for deaf people for example the possibility to send an emergency telefax to them. Here the problem arises that further enquiries are not directly possible, but would need another telefax send back and forth. This slows down the communication drastically, which is obviously not desired in case of an emergency.
How should an automatic translation device from/to sign language look like to ease communication for deaf-mute people in everyday situations?
Interview of Expert
To see if our assumptions are correct and to gain background knowledge we will ask an expert in the field of deaf-mute communication via sign language, to answer following questions:
How do deaf-mute people (synchronously) communicate with persons who do not understand sign language in everyday situations?
How important/frequent is communication with people who do not understand sign language?
Which tools (if any) do deaf-mute people use in situations where people have problems understanding them?
Which technology aids (if any) are already available to ease communication for deaf-mute people? How useful are these tools?
What are the main obstacles in everyday communication deaf-mute people have to overcome?
- Could an automated translation from/to sign language (from/to text or speech) be of any help? What obstacles would be needed to be solved in such technological solution?
Another Update will be posted once we have done more background research and got a reply to our questions.
Jens, Niknam, Simon