02/03/2022 - Presse release
Cologne, Germany, March 02, 2022 - There are about 70 million deaf people worldwide. For many of them, text language is a foreign language; they use sign language instead. Legislators have responded to the specific information needs of people with disabilities and in Germany are already obliging public authorities and public agencies to provide barrier-free digital communication. Nationwide, there are too few translators to translate standardized texts into sign language. Technical solutions are not available. In the project "AVASAG", supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), experts are working together to develop a 3D sign language avatar for the automated translation of text into sign language.
The AVASAG research project, which has been running since May 2020, focuses on a human-centered solution that is intended to help the deaf community to fully participate in digital offerings due to the advancing digitalization. Analogous to a language translator, a solution is being implemented that optimally enables the comprehensibility of digital offerings for the deaf. Sign language is subject to completely different rules than spoken language and thus requires innovative approaches that enable an understandable and accepted visualization. However, the forms of use of a sign language avatar are also essential and require standards for public authorities, public agencies and companies that provide digital content in an accessible way. The 'Bundesfachstelle Barrierefreiheit' (Federal Agency for Accessibility) is to provide support here as an additional partner in the advisory board. The focus is on the definition of requirements and possible forms of use of sign language avatars, which should lead to a possible standardization.
"The use of avatars in the automated translation of text into sign language offers a first chance to not only communicate individual content in an understandable way, but also to enable it with the lowest barriers," says Alexander Stricker, CEO of Charamel GmbH and project manager of the AVASAG project. "We are very pleased that the 'Bundesfachstelle Barrierefreiheit' supports the AVASAG project. This will ensure that a solution for full digital participation for the deaf that can be used by all is realized."
"The goals formulated by the 'Bundesfachstelle' for true accessibility and unrestricted participation coincide with the goals of the research project," says Dr. Volker Sieger, head of the 'Bundesfachstelle Barrierefreiheit'. "Our know-how can help for the further success to develop standards for the future, how the use of sign language avatars makes sense."
The Federal Accessibility Agency was established in 2016 by the Act on the Further Development of Disability Equality Law. The law lays down important principles for establishing federal accessibility. The specialist unit supports authorities and administrations in the independent implementation of accessibility.
As a competent point of contact, the specialist unit provides advice on a wide range of accessibility topics, from structural access to barrier-free mobility and information technology to barrier-free information and communication. According to capacity, the Federal Agency also answers questions on accessibility from the business community and civil society.
The Federal Agency for Accessibility is located at the German Pension Insurance Knappschaft-Bahn-See (KBS).
Joint project AVASAG: Development of a 3D sign language avatar as a speech assistant for automated sign translation
In the joint project AVASAG (stands for Avatar-based Speech Assistant for Automated Sign Language Translation), funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), six partners from research and development are working under the leadership of Charamel (a specialist in interactive avatar-based assistance systems) on a real-time 3D sign language avatar for the automatic translation of German texts into sign language. The project is creating a completely novel sign animation method for 3D avatars: It combines those of machine learning with rule-based synthesis methods that map text into signs. Temporal and spatial dependencies of the complex sign elements are resolved very precisely. Thus, a high-quality, realistic representation of a 3D sign language avatar is achieved. Corresponding offers enable deaf and hearing-impaired people a more comprehensive social participation and a stronger integration into the "digital society". The results of the project will be evaluated together with the deaf target group and tested in the application field travel information and service with associating partners.
The partners in the consortium: a strong alliance for social participation
Under the leadership of the Cologne-based Charamel GmbH, a team of representatives from universities, research institutions and industry is working on the implementation of the project. Essential for the project is the cooperation of deaf employees, who are experts in the field of sign language. Partners of the project: Charamel GmbH, German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) GmbH, Ergosign GmbH, Technical University of Cologne, University of Augsburg, yomma GmbH. In addition, numerous associating partners, such as Deutsche Bahn, support the project.
Caption: 3D sign language avatar translates text into sign language.
Image credits: Copyright Charamel
Press contact, further information and images: