I was fascinated to be told about about the project to be undertaken at the Centre for Vision Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP) at the University of Surrey. A machine which can turn BSL into written English – the possibilities this could provide to Deaf BSL users in education, the workplace, socially…. are enormous. Many BSL users are not confident writing English as the languages are very different.
This project is no small task as BSL grammar is different to English, it is not a case of substituting a word for a sign. Each sign comprises of handshape, orientation, movement and location. There are also facial expressions, lip patterns, body language to take into consideration. I am curious how the machine will understand all these, for example a furrowing of the eyebrows can turn a statement into a question.
Richard Bowden is heading up the team, he is a BSL Level 3 student of mine. He insists that his team learn BSL on the Global Graduate Program for languages run by the University of Surrey. I am very proud to be teaching this course for the seventh year.
I will be following this project with extreme interest!