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Posts Tagged ‘signing’

Here’s a new idea. A couple of young entrepreneurs have found a way to convert sign language into audible speech with their prize-winning electronic gloves.

National Public Radio has the story.

“For years, inventors have been trying to convert some sign language words and letters into text and speech. Now a pair of University of Washington undergraduates have created gloves called SignAloud. Sensors attached to the gloves measure hand position and movement, and data is sent to a computer via Bluetooth and is then converted into spoken word and text.

“Theirs is one of seven inventions recently awarded a Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, with awards ranging from $10,000 to $15,000.

“Inventors Navid Azodi and Thomas Pryor, both college sophomores, say the gloves will help create a communication bridge between deaf and hearing communities. The gloves, they say, will help deaf people better communicate with the rest of the world without changing the way they already interact with each other.

“However, the invention has been met with criticism that the bridge they want to create goes only one way — and it’s not necessarily one the deaf community has been clamoring for. …

“Azodi says he and Pryor are moving beyond their prototype and are working closer with those who use American Sign Language to develop new versions. They’re also working on better understanding ASL, which is more than just hand movements; it also uses facial expressions and body language to convey meaning.” Read more.

I don’t know much about the culture of the deaf community, but I do remember reading about resistance to cochlear implants a few years ago. It’s hard for people who can hear to understand that some people really don’t mind deafness and prefer their own ways of dealing with the world. But kudos to all inventors anyway, especially young ones open to continuous revision!

Photo: Conrado Tapado/Univ of Washington, CoMotion
SignAloud gloves translate sign language into text and speech.

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A while back, I wrote about the BBC National Orchestra of Wales launching a series of concerts to bring the joy of music to deaf children and adults, here.

I’ve been thinking about that lately. If you don’t love Christmas music, you might say that people who have hearing loss are better off at this time of year. But I like that there are so many initiatives to help the deaf enjoy Christmas music and other sorts of music.

Did you see this Clarke Canfield story in the Boston Globe? He writes about a sign language interpreter of lyrics who is adding a whole new level of fun to rock music — delighting the hearing and nonhearing alike.

“Teaming American Sign Language with dance moves and body language, [Holly Maniatty] brings musical performances alive for those who can’t hear,”  he writes, “Her clients are a who’s who of rock, pop, and hip-hop: Bruce Springsteen, Eminem, Mumford and Sons, Jay-Z, Billy Joel, Marilyn Manson, U2, Beastie Boys, and Wu-Tang Clan, to name a few.

“Along the way, videos of her fast-motion, helter-skelter signing have become popular online.

“There’s the video of Springsteen jumping down from the stage at the New Orleans Jazz Fest and joining Maniatty and another interpreter. There, he dances and signs to ‘’Dancing in the Dark.’’

‘‘ ‘Deaf people were commenting, “Oh, the Boss knows he has deaf fans. That’s awesome,’’ ‘’ she said. ‘When artists connect with their interpreters, they also connect with their deaf fans.’

“In another video, rap artist Killer Mike approaches Maniatty in front of the stage after noticing her animated signing.

‘‘I’ve never seen that before .”… At a Wu-Tang performance, Method Man took notice of her signing, came down from the stage, and joined her.”

Read all about it here. See her dancing with Bruce Springsteen here.

 Photo: Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

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The holiday concert last Saturday deserves its own post.

I learned about the Melrose Symphony Orchestra, the oldest continuous volunteer orchestra in the country, because my friend Alden began playing the oboe there a year or so ago and loves it. Saturday was the first time we got to a performance, and we were amazed by the whole scene.

Memorial Hall, remarkable for its size and its caryatid-supported honorary box, must have had a thousand people in it. It seemed like everyone of every age in Melrose had come, and a look at the program suggested that every business in town was a supporter.

The website says that “the mission of the Melrose Symphony is to give the citizens of Melrose and surrounding area an opportunity to participate in the joy of music.”

The conductor, Yoichi Udagawa, is determined to make classical music fun and accessible to all. He is not only an excellent musician but a real showman, drawing applause from audience members who have attended before as soon as he said he was going to tell a joke.

Alden told us the orchestra provides scholarships for high school students who often join up again after college. And he explained that the kids who were walking around before the performance and in the intermissions selling tickets were raising money by giving audience members a chance to conduct the last number, a jingle bell sing-along.

We also had music from Grieg and Vaughn Williams, so it wasn’t 100% holiday. But the guest star, Renese King, sang Gospel music with two talented nieces, a backup group, and a lovely young woman who danced sign language — and that really got everyone in the spirit of the season.

I have to say, I have lived in New England 30 years and have never seen a whole community rally around a cultural institution to this extent. Melrose must have a secret formula. I’d like to know what’s in the water.

Photograph: Melrose Symphony Orchestra

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