A new app that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help deaf children and their parents learn to read together has launched in the UK.
Chinese technology giant Huawei has created the StorySign app, which uses the firm’s own AI and a smartphone’s camera to recognise words on a page and translate them into sign language on the phone’s screen.
The free app, which can now be downloaded by Android users, was created with the help of a range of deaf charities and experts including the British Deaf Association and the European Union of the Deaf.
Deaf children, of which there are over 30 million globally, often struggle to learn to read due to not being able to hear their parents read to them or hear a teacher repeating sentences, while there is no written form of sign language as there is no direct word-for-word translation.
Mark Wheatley, executive director of the European Union of the Deaf said of the app: “With StorySign, Huawei is using the power of its AI and innovative technology in a meaningful way.
“We’re very hopeful that it will make a significant impact in the deaf community, helping more deaf children learn how to read at the same level as hearing children. We also hope the launch of StorySign will support a wider conversation about ensuring equality in every aspect of their lives for deaf people across Europe.”
When used on a smartphone, the words on the page of a physical book are translated into sign language by animated avatar Star, with popular children’s book Spot The Dog supported by the app at launch.
Huawei’s chief marketing officer for western Europe Andrew Garrihy said the company hoped to raise awareness of deaf literacy skills and encourage more support for charities linked to the cause.
“At Huawei, we believe in the power of AI and that technology can make a positive difference in the world,” he said.
“We created StorySign to help make it possible for families with deaf children to enjoy an enriched story time. We hope that by raising awareness of deaf literacy issues, people will be encouraged to donate to or support one of the fantastic charity partners we are working with across Europe.”