Animated Si5s : the first animated character system protoype for a sign language

Danielle Bragg, University of Washington
Raja Kushalnagar, Gallaudet University.
Richard Ladner, University of Washington

Like other sign languages, American Sign Language (ASL) is a movement-based language without a standard written form. Though ASL is not typically written, much of society and the technical world communicates through written text, excluding many ASL users from equal participation. A standard written form of ASL would make text-based platforms newly usable in ASL, including email clients, text messengers, social media, text editors, and much of the internet, as well as text-based resources like books and newspapers. It would also satisfy many Deaf people’s desire to express themselves through writing in their primary language (e.g., [1]). Other possible benefts include promotion and dissemination of the language, and low-cost documentation and cultural preservation (e.g., [2, 3]). Sign languages do not have a standard written form, preventing millions of Deaf people from accessing text in their primary language. A major barrier to adoption is diffculty learning a system which represents complex 3D movements with stationary symbols.

We present the frst animated sign language character system prototype. Like Chinese characters and heiroglyphic logograms, our animated characters represent individual signs, and form lines of text. Each character is composed of a confguration of symbols, some of which may be moving. These characters are based on si5s [4], formed by replacing si5s movement symbols with actual movement on the screen. Using animation allows us to create text that visually resembles sign movements. This visual resemblance to the live language has the potential to make character systems easier to learn and lower the barrier to adoption. We limited the design to animating an existing character system, si5s, in order to build on substantial prior work and include infuences from the Deaf community.

[1] TEDx Talks. 2012. Robert Arnold Augustus at TEDxIslay. (2012).

[2] Donald A Grushkin. 2017. Writing Signed Languages: What For? What Form? American Annals of the Deaf 161, 5 (2017), 509–527.

[3] Marina McIntire, Don Newkirk, Sandra Hutchins, and Howard Poizner. 1987. Hands and faces: A Preliminary Inventory for Written ASL. Sign Language Studies 56, 1 (1987), 197–241.

[4] RA Augustus, E Ritchie, and S Stecker. 2013. The Offcial American Sign Language Writing Textbook. ASLized (2013)

Animated Si5s Prototype Demo

Original story: Davis, J. (2011). Deaf-Blind Ninja. Journal of American Sign Languages and Literatures.

Original (non-animated) si5s text: RA Augustus, E Ritchie, and S Stecker. 2013. The Offcial American Sign Language Writing Textbook. ASLized (2013).

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