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What is AI-generated Sign Language, and How Does it Work?

Learn about AI generated sign language, benefits it provide for deaf people and future expectations from this technology. Hop in and read more!

Nicole Brener
Nicole Brener
What is AI-generated Sign Language, and How Does it Work?

Ensuring equal access to information and services is a fundamental principle of inclusivity. Yet, challenges arise when circumstances are not equal.

For individuals who are deaf and primarily communicate through Sign Language, understanding written content can pose a significant hurdle. 

This has led to innovative solutions such as AI-generated Sign Language.

AI-generated Sign Language solutions translate sentences on websites, video subtitles, written documents, and even real-time speech into sign language, allowing deaf individuals to access information in their first language. 

With this new technology, deaf individuals who prefer to communicate in Sign Language or have difficulty understanding what they read can engage with content in an accessible way. 

Continue reading to learn more about AI-generated Sign Language and how it's reshaping the landscape of inclusivity. Also, if you are interested in learning sign language, we have a list of apps that can help you!

What is AI-generated Sign Language?

AI-generated Sign Language is a form of sign language generated by a computer rather than another human. It serves the concept of providing more access to sign language without the limitations of human availability and speed, which can make life more accessible for deaf individuals who have difficulty understanding what they read or rely on Sign Language to access content.

AI-generated Sign Language refers to using artificial intelligence (AI) to interpret spoken or written language into sign language. 

When combined with speech, this technology uses advanced speech recognition algorithms to convert spoken language into text and then translates the processed text into sign language. This involves determining the appropriate grammar, signs, expressions, and gestures to convey the message accurately.

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How is American Sign Language different from written English?

In American Sign Language (ASL), communication involves using signs to convey information visually, with a grammatical structure that often places descriptors after the subject is introduced. Unlike English, where adjectives precede nouns, ASL tends to provide details after establishing the subject. 

ASL relies heavily on facial expressions, inflection, tone, and body language to convey nuances, making it a highly expressive language. The language uses gestures and facial expressions for grammar, with complex facial expressions indicating various elements, such as questioning or open-ended inquiries. 

ASL doesn't have a sign for every English word, leading to using fingerspelling to spell unfamiliar words. However, proficient signers can quickly recognize patterns and groups of letters in fingerspelling, enabling efficient communication. 

A smiling young woman communicating in Sign Language on a computer.
A smiling young woman communicating in Sign Language on a computer.

Here are key ways in which American Sign Language differs from written English:

* Grammatical Structure Difference

English follows a subject-verb-object (SVO) word order, and meaning is conveyed through the arrangement of words and the use of grammatical structures. Instead, ASL has its own grammar and syntax, and word order alone does not determine meaning. 

* Modality

In American Sign Language (ASL), for example, facial and body movements are integral to grammatical structure. In comparison, English is a spoken and written language, relying on a combination of letters, words, and grammatical structures. It is a two-dimensional, linear representation of language.

* Perception of a Limited Vocabulary

A single sign in ASL can encapsulate a broad range of meanings, allowing for more efficient and dynamic communication. This may give the false perception that ASL has a narrow vocabulary when, in reality, it's a different way of conveying concepts.

Do Deaf Individuals Prefer Sign Language Over Subtitles or Closed Captioning?

According to ASL service provider Languagers, many deaf individuals prefer sign language over subtitles or closed captioning since they find engaging with content in Sign Language easier, considering it their first language.

And now, AI-generated Sign Language technology has the potential to pull from grammar, expressions, and tones, translating auditory and written signals into visible Sign Language with great accuracy to provide a seamless experience for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. 

Can AI-generated Sign Language Benefit Hard of Hearing Individuals?

AI-generated Sign Language can indeed offer significant benefits to individuals who are hard of hearing.

Many people who are hard of hearing learn Sign Language since they often face challenges in understanding verbal information. AI-generated Sign Language empowers them to independently access information in their preferred mode of communication, reducing reliance on interpreters or written materials.

AI-generated Sign Language also has the capability to translate sign language into text/voice to facilitate the communication of those who rely solely on sign language with people who do not know Sign Language. In this way, AI Sign Language can break communication barriers on all levels.

6 Benefits of AI-generated Sign Language

A young man smiling looking at his laptop while sitting in a library taking notes.
A young man smiling looking at his laptop while sitting in a library taking notes.

Beyond promoting inclusivity and fostering accessibility, AI-generated Sign Language technology holds immense potential to bring about transformative advancements across various domains. 

Here are several key areas where we can observe the benefits of AI-generated Sign Language technology:

  1. Comply with Accessibility Standards

Ensures digital content and communication platforms meet regulatory requirements, accommodating diverse communication needs.

  1. Reach More People

Broadens the audience you can effectively engage with, reaching individuals who use Sign Language as their primary mode of communication while also connecting deaf individuals from different parts of the world.

  1. Create Career Development Opportunities

A deaf-friendly environment opens doors to career advancement by providing access to training materials, professional development resources, and effective communication channels in the workplace.

  1. Improve Educational Support

Provides equal access to educational materials and opportunities, promoting active participation and integration in academic activities.

  1. Support Health Care

Empowers deaf individuals to communicate directly with their doctors and receive easily understandable information about their health for improved healthcare outcomes. Although the technology is not designed to replace human interpreters, it could play a vital role in situations where interpreters aren't available or when deaf patients opt for a more direct method. 

  1. Advance Assistive Technologies

The development and integration of AI-generated Sign Language contribute to the continuous advancement of assistive technologies, pushing the boundaries of innovation in creating solutions that enhance accessibility.

Into The Future

With AI avatars turning written content and speech into Sign Language in real time, the world becomes more connected and accessible. 

This exciting innovation not only dismantles communication barriers for the deaf and hard of hearing communities but propels us into an era where inclusivity is at the forefront of technological advancements.

As AI-generated Sign Language technology evolves, it's another step towards redefining accessibility standards and fostering a world where everyone, regardless of their hearing abilities, can participate fully and engage meaningfully in all aspects of life, a key focus on our mission at Nagish.

We’ll keep monitoring as this technology evolves, and even though we're still a long way from full functional equivalency with AI sign language and sign language provided by interpreters, this provides an exciting glimpse into the future of what might be on the horizon. 

Nicole Brener
Nicole Brener

Copywriter based in Miami, FL. Leads copywriting workshops and mentors women entrepreneurs at the Idea Center of Miami Dade College.

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