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NEWS
Testing American Sign Language by Cell Phone
August 23, 2010

University of Washington (UW) engineers are developing the first device able to transmit American Sign Language over U.S. cellular networks. The tool is just completing its initial field test by participants in a UW summer program for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

The MobileASL team has been working to optimize compressed video signals for sign language. By increasing image quality around the face and hands, researchers have brought the data rate down to 30 kilobytes per second while still delivering intelligible sign language. MobileASL also uses motion detection to identify whether a person is signing or not, in order to extend the phones’ battery life during video use.

This summer’s field test is allowing the team to see how people use the tool in their daily lives and what obstacles they encounter. Eleven participants are testing the phones for three weeks. They meet with the research team for interviews and occasionally have survey questions pop up after a call is completed asking about the call quality. A larger field study will begin this winter.

Participants in the current field test are students in the UW Summer Academy for Advancing Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Computing.


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