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kottke.org posts about American Sign Language

Extending American Sign Language Vocabulary With Signs for “Coronavirus” and “TikTok”

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 06, 2020

Coronavirus in sign language

The Instagram account thefamilyvocab features videos of words & phrases in sign language that are not part of standard ASL.

Our aim is to play with sign language and expand my child’s visual vocabulary with signs that are not part of standard ASL. It’s only 200 years old and still thriving and evolving.

I love this. So far, they’ve done words like pho, Black Lives Matter, TikTok (I really like this one), Brexit, coronavirus, emoji (I like this one too), gentrification, and dozens of others. They’re creating new signs, taking suggestions from followers, and sourcing signs from other sign languages from around the world. (via youngna)

Making Amazon Alexa respond to sign language using AI

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2018

Using a JavaScript machine learning package called TensorFlow.js, Abhishek Singh built a program that learned how to translate sign language into verbal speech that an Amazon Alexa can understand. “If voice is the future of computing,” he signs, “what about those who cannot [hear and speak]?”

See also how AirPods + the new Live Listen feature “could revolutionize what it means to be hard of hearing”.

Translating music into American Sign Language

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2017

Amber Galloway Gallego is a ASL interpreter who has developed new techniques and expressions to translate popular music into a richer experience for deaf and hard-of-hearing people than just simply translating the lyrics.

If you frequent music festivals and concerts, you might see her — or an interpreter like her — grooving to the music, mirroring the emotions and physicality of the artists onstage, interpreting their imaginative lyrics for concert-goers who rely on visual accommodations. She’s interpreted for more than 400 artists at this point, and has a special knack for interpreting hip-hop acts.

Part of the challenge here, particularly with fast-moving rap or hip hop, is combine or abbreviate signs in order to keep time with the lyrics. See Shelby Mitchusson performing Eminem’s Lose Yourself or Gallego doing a faster song of his, Rap God:

ASL performance of “Alexander Hamilton”

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 23, 2016

Watch Sarah Tubert perform the opening number from Hamilton in ASL. You might want to put on some headphones to hear some of the signs Tubert performs (snaps, claps, etc.)

Sign language translation gloves

posted by Jason Kottke   May 09, 2016

A pair of undergraduate students, Thomas Pryor and Navid Azodi of the University of Washington, have invented a pair of gloves that translates the sign language movements of the wearer into spoken English in realtime.

Thomas and Navid developed SignAloud, a pair of gloves that recognizes hand gestures that correspond to words and phrases in American Sign Language, using resources at the University of Washington CoMotion MakerSpace, a place that offers communal tools, equipment, and opportunities for students. Each glove contains sensors that record hand position and movement. As users put on the gloves, the device calibrates to account for differences in sensor placement. Data from the sensors is sent from the gloves wirelessly via Bluetooth to a central computer. The computer looks at the data for gestures through various sequential statistical regressions, similar to a neural network. If the data matches a gesture, then the associated word or phrase is spoken through a speaker.

Update: A woman named Katie, who is a linguistics professor and ASL interpreter, wrote a not-so-positive review of the gloves on her blog. Actually, she calls them impractical and “nothing more than a fun party trick”.

ASL uses facial expressions and other “non-manual” markers to show grammar. The difference between a question, a statement and a command is purely on your face. How can the gloves interpret your face?

And she also points out the biggest thing I noticed when I first watched the video:

These guys are not signers. The signs they demoed are (laughably) not even correctly produced. Programming the device with incorrect input will not, as they say in their video, “translate American Sign Language into speech”. Without the collaboration of a deaf person (the targeted audience of these things), how do these guys even know that what they’re doing is right?

Sounds like a well-meaning experiment that may have merit in the future (like the Apple Watch?), but, as Katie says, presently impractical. (via @jonathonbellew)

Update: Alex Lu writes that deaf people don’t need new communications tools.

Deaf people should not have to wear gloves to make their words and presentation palatable to hearing people. You already have all the tools you need to communicate with us, if you would only learn how to use them. It is time that hearing people respect Deaf people for who they are, instead of forcing us to be empty caricatures of hearing standards.

The Tribe

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 02, 2015

The Tribe is set at a Ukrainian high school for the deaf. The film employs no subtitles or voiceovers; all communication is sign language and non-verbal acting. Here’s the trailer…somewhat paradoxically, you’ll want to use headphones or turn the sound up.

Winner of multiple 2014 Cannes Film Festival Awards (including the coveted Critics’ Week Grand Prix), Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe is an undeniably original and intense feature debut set in the insular world of a Ukrainian high school for the deaf. The Tribe unfolds through the non-verbal acting and sign language from a cast of deaf, non-professional actors — with no need for subtitles or voice over — resulting in a unique, never-before-experienced cinematic event that engages the audience on a new sensory level.

(thx, paul)

Eminem’s Lose Yourself in ASL

posted by Jason Kottke   May 29, 2015

Oh, this is my favorite thing of the month: Shelby Mitchusson performing Eminem’s Lose Yourself in American Sign Language.

Great song and a great performance. Em, sign this woman up for your next tour! (via devour)

Update: Amber Galloway Gallego is an American Sign Language interpreter who specializes in doing rap and hip-hop concerts.

As an American Sign Language interpreter who specializes in music performance, Gallego has interpreted over 300 rap, R&B, and rock concerts, and has worked with everyone from Aerosmith to Destiny’s Child. After a deaf friend told her that “music wasn’t for deaf people,” she embarked on a quest to prove otherwise; today, she’s hired by major music festivals all over the United States to make auditory performances more relatable for the deaf.

To do so, she employs a tireless mixture of hand signs, facial expressions, body movement, and sensibility.

Hawkeye’s hearing, or How to use signs in storytelling

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 31, 2014

Hi, everybody! Tim Carmody here, guest-hosting for Jason this week.

In the Marvel comic Hawkeye #15, published in February, the title character was brutally attacked and deafened by a supervillain real estate developer trying to push the hero’s neighbors out of their apartment building in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy. (It’s a very special comic book.) This week’s issue, #19, took months to finish but finally picks up that story line. It’s mostly told in a combination of silent panels, American Sign Language, and half-intelligible lip reading. It’s already being talked about as a shoo-in for this year’s Eisner award for best single issue.

clint-600x287.jpg

There are precedents here. Last year’s mostly-silent Hawkeye #11 was told from the point of view of a dog (named Pizza Dog), using symbols and maps to tell a kind of detective story. (That issue also won writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja the Eisner.)

Pizza dog.png

There’s also a silent issue of Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev where the blind superhero is temporarily deafened by an explosion. And there’s two gorgeous mini-arcs of Daredevil by writer/artist David Mack, featuring Maya Lopez as Echo, Daredevil’s deaf, super-powered love interest and counterpart.

Echo.png

Hawkeye’s also been temporarily deaf twice before: once in the limited series Hawkeye, back in the 1980s (his use of a hearing aid made him a minor hero to hearing-impaired readers) and (it’s revealed in this new issue) also as a child, as a result of an injury implied to be caused by his abusive father. This is how Clint and his brother Barney are shown to know American Sign Language.

I’ve been interested in ASL for a long time for personal reasons, but also as a kind of “writing,” in the family-resemblance sense of visible language, that functions like speech.

Comic books, at least in print, are a silent medium by necessity. But it’s still harder to render ASL in comics than ordinary oral/aural speech, because it’s a language of movement, and we don’t have the conventions of speech bubbles and the alphabet.

What we do have is a graphic tradition of maps, signs, atlases, manuals, and other forms of everyday iconography to draw on. And those are largely what Mack used in Daredevil, and what Aja uses in Hawkeye.

It’s a sign that we, all of us, read signs everywhere, and every kind of reading can be used and incorporated in every other kind. The best way to stay true to what’s essential in a medium is to do your best to explode your way out of it.

Sign language translation system

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 05, 2013

A video from Microsoft Research showcases a system that uses the Kinect motion sensing input device to translate between American Sign Language and other sign and spoken languages.

You can read more about the system at Microsoft Research.

Jehovah’s Witnesses to the deaf: no masturbation in da club

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 06, 2012

Some genius paired 50 Cent’s In Da Club with a video put out by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to encourage deaf people not to masturbate.

(via stellar)

Barack Obama and sign language

posted by Aaron Cohen   Mar 21, 2012

Last week after an event at Prince Georges Community College in Maryland, a deaf audience member named Stephon used American Sign Language to tell President Obama, ‘I am proud of you,’ and as you can see in the video, President Obama signed back, ‘Thank you’. Hearing the crowd’s response to this was pretty neat, and imagine what it must have felt like to be the audience member. To be clear, this type of engagement/recognition would be cool from any president.

The moment I will never forget was when he looked at me. He gave me a chance to talk to him. It was like he was waiting for me to say something. I took the moment and signed “I am proud of you,” and his response was “Thank u” in sign language back! Oh my gosh! I was like wow! He understood me after I said I was proud of him. It was so amazing…I was just speechless.

Turn the volume down. Signing is at about :30 seconds.

(Hat tip anildash)

The ASL matchbook alphabet

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 27, 2007

The American Sign Language alphabet made from matchbooks…think of the matches as fingers.