Cell phones and PDA’s put “reaching out” at our fingertips. But the hearing impaired find it difficult to use these because of the low bandwidth of the US wireless phone network. Low bandwidth affects the quality of the video that’s produced.
A team of engineers at the University of Washington are developing the Mobile ASL project – creating the first device to transmit American Sign Language (ASL) over U.S. cellular networks.
The engineers are working to increase image quality around the face and hands, optimizing compressed video signals for sign language. Researchers have been able to bring the data rate down to 30 kilobytes per second while still delivering intelligible sign language.The device also uses motion detection to identify if a person is signing or not, in order to extend the phones’ battery life during video use.
The new MobileASL system could be integrated with the iPhone 4, the HTC Evo, or any device with a video camera on the same side as the screen. A large field study of this device will take place at the end of 2010.
For this technology to exist in the immediate future, the MobileASL project is designing new ASL encoders that are compatible with the new H.264/AVC compression standard using x264 (nearly doubling compression ratios of MPEG-2). The result will be a video compression metric that takes into account empirically validated visual and perceptual processes that occur during conversations in ASL.