What do you use your mobile phone for? If this question were asked 10 to 15 years ago, the most common answer would probably be “for voice calls.” Today, text messaging and browsing the web just might be the “winning answers.”
I bet, though, that communicating using sign language over the phone is not going to be in anyone’s list of anyone’s answers. If a group of engineers from the University of Washington is successful, millions of deaf people around the world will be able to use their mobile phones to make calls; and instead of using voice to communicate, they can use American Sign Language!
The team has dubbed themselves the MobileASL, and they have been working on a technology that compresses video signals. The technology focuses on the face and the hands of the user, optimizing the use of the bandwidth. In addition to that, the engineers are also looking at conserving battery life by detecting whether or not the user is signing. At “idle” moments, the power use can be lowered to extend the battery life.
At this point, the brains behind the technology still want to know more about how it will perform in real life situations. They have conducted studies with “real” users, and the response has been positive so far. The edge that MobileASL has is the fact that they are aiming to make the technology available over a broad range of devices. No iPhone-only application from these guys – if they have their way, practically anyone will be able to make use of their creation.