Virtual Assistant: a 3-D avatar, the best classmate for deaf students

Software that converts the voice into sign language is creating a stir in Honduras

A three-dimensional humanoid avatar is being designed to help students with with hearing difficulties in Honduras.

The translation system captures a teacher’s voice and translates it into Honduran Sign Language, displaying the results on screen through a female avatar who signs at the viewer.

Yeny Carías, a 32-year-old professor of engineering at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, says classroom experience with a student prompted her to investigate how software can be used as a mediator between those who can speak and those with hearing difficulties.

The student needs only a computer, a microphone and internet access. The teacher just needs to work on the correct pronunciation of words, which allows the avatar to pick up the message and translate it into sign language.

The team, which has the logistical and financial support of the university, is working with deaf people to record short videos with words in sign language that are later introduced into the software.

Emilson Acosta, a programmer, says that more than “700 signs have been recorded on video, of which 350 have been inputted to the graphic- design program”.

According to the team, up to 70,000 people in Honduras have hearing problems. By the end of September, they hope, they’ll be able to offer them the software. June 20th, 2015

Published as part of Impact Journalism Day, June 20th, 2015