What's this Challenge about?
The World’s First Sign Language Keyboard and Crowd-sourced Sign Language Dictionary!
We're an IT startup that offers services with sign language, founded in 2008 with a mission to create an equal society for the Deaf and the hearing. Currently, we are developing the world’s first crowd-sourced online dictionary for sign language, SLinto, in which users can look up sign language words and find translations in other languages. This Challenge is to seek funding for the alpha release.
Although a dictionary to look up signs is essential for the Deaf and hard of hearing whose native tongue is sign language and for learners of sign language, not much technology has been developed for efficient sign-to-spoken-language translation. This project will bring us a step closer to the world where communication is made much more simple and easier for sign language speakers.
ShuR Website: http://shur.jp
ShuR Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ShuRGroup
How Do We Look Up Signs?
If you need to find a sign for the word, “dog,” you can do a search with keywords like “sign language, dog,” which will give you webpages and video clips providing the sign for the word, “dog.” But what if you only know a sign and not the spoken word translation? It seems there’s no easy way to look it up. You would have to ask a sign language speaker or try to describe the sign; “You know, the sign where you hold your right thumb up and touch the left ring finger…”
Our sign language keyboard makes the whole process much easier. There are four main components for a sign; location, handshape, orientation, and movement. Our special keyboard allows you to look up a sign using its location and handshape and provide search results in videos.
Most of the existing sign language dictionaries are paper-based, and we believe they will remain important sources for information just as paper-based encyclopedias still exist in the time of Wikipedia. The publication carries authority and incomparable value as an archive of information. At the same time, we can’t deny that Wikipedia is a more preferred source for current topics such as “iPS cells” and “bomb cyclones.” People are constantly creating new words, jargon, and slang, and it’s impossible for a paper-based publication to stay up-to-date or cram everything into the limited pages.
That’s why we’re creating a crowd-sourced online dictionary for sign language. Just like Wikipedia, SLinto will keep up with newly created signs and cover the ones that are only rarely used. Everyone can participate and upload videos to add new signs to the archive. The FIT function lets users rate the signs so useful expressions will be listed higher in the search result.
Is Sign Language Universal? What About Dialects?
You may think sign language is a universal language, but it isn’t. There have been at least 130 varieties of sign languages all over the world (4 of which have already gone extinct). Each country and culture usually has their own sign language. There are even dialects.
SLinto allows searches for signs in different sign languages and their dialects. All sign languages are universally spoken by two hands, so our sign language keyboard can be used to look up signs in any of them. The search results will be listed according to the user’s location and hometown so they can find results in their dialects. Sorting by age and gender will be available as well.
How Will SLinto Change The World?
SLinto will help realize smoother communication for all sign language speakers, the Deaf or hearing, by providing easy access to sign-to-spoken-language translation. The database can be also used for other sign-language-related services. Learning sign language for the hearing and spoken-language for the Deaf and hard of hearing will be made easier, as well as learning sign languages of other cultures.
Message from Junto Ohki, Cofounder
At ShuR, we offer various technology and services with sign language including remote interpretation via TV phone, tourist information on tablets and smartphones, and entertainment Podcasts. SLinto, once set off, will provide an even better foundation for all these services. In Japan only, there are at least 365,000 Deaf and hard of hearing people, and 80,000 of them speak Japanese sign language as their first language. There are also those who can hear but are learning sign language as their second language. If you think about how many people need aid in learning sign language, you can see how much impact SLinto will have on the world. It’ll bring a wonderful change into lives of many. And we need your help to make it come true!