Signs good for students' translation app

Local | Sophie Hui 30 Aug 2017

A revolutionary mobile app that translates Chinese sentences into sign language has been created by three fresh graduates of computer science from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Ken Lai Ka-wai, Kelvin Yung Wai- chiu and Mary Leung Ming-fong decided to make the invention of the app their final-year project to help hearing- impaired people.

"We wanted to do something meaningful for society," the 22-year-old Lai.

Leung, also 22, who knows sign language, also presented in the sign language video clips, which will be played by keying in Chinese sentences on a mobile phone. The three spent a year to develop the app, which so far has about 1,700 words and expressions in sign language.

Brian Mak Kan-wing, associate professor in the department of computer science and engineering at HKUST, said: "A recent survey indicated that about 50,000 people in Hong Kong were either totally deaf or hearing- impaired, but the number of professional sign language interpreters is small - only about 54 in total."

Mak said the new app is "a good example of our passion to serve," and will "definitely contribute to the training of interpreters, and to the communication between the public and people with hearing problems."

The team said it did not estimate how many people would download the app, or how much they could earn from it. "Our intention is to let more people learn sign language. We hope the language can be popularized, and the public can use the app to learn it," Lai said.

He added they did not spend much on creating the app, as they used their own computers and equipment to produce the sign language videos.

The team expects to launch the app at the end of the year for Android users. Lai said staff from a sign language association have tried the app, and gave positive feedback. Meanwhile, the team will keep improving the app by adding more words and expressions, as well as spoken Cantonese.

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