Third time’s a charm

Signfuse applied for EU funding three times.

A first opportunity appeared when our long valued customer Onno Crasborn (Nijmegen University) chased the EU call for “Technologies for Digital Content and Languages”. Onno made a very nice proposal in 2013, but unfortunately we didn’t hear from the European Union again. The project was not dismissed, nor accepted, which appears to be their way of handling project applications when their budget has run out on higher-ranked projects.

In 2015 Ulrike Zeshan (University of Central Lancashire) tried to win a call for the European Research Council (ERC) together with Signfuse, but again, we didn’t get any news from the European Union.

In 2017 Noémie Churlet (Media Pi) got us on board of a third opportunity. We applied for an Erasmus+ project. And we won!
The whole application was accepted as is. It was a relief. We’re very happy.

The project will take off this fall. The goal is to create the first dedicated e-magazine with the objective to improve the schooling of deaf pupils, and to enhance their access, participation and performance within the education system

Partners are: Association Média’Pi (France), L’Apprimerie (France), Yomma (Germany), Istituto Statale Per Sordi (Italia) and Liceul tehnologic Special (Romania).

We’re very much looking forward to executing this exciting project!

Accu DVD ‘Open Doors’

This is a very old post (2006), written by Sven Noben, founder of Signfuse. Several data (and links) in this article may be outdated.

31th of January, the ACCU team will present their new DVD, “Open Doors”, which covers accessibility in musea.

Signfuse has provided access to the DVD for sign language users.
A part of the DVD, the introduction, which is about 7 minutes long, is translated into international sign by Sven Noben. The translation didnt happen to be litterally because of the nature of international sign.

We’d wished to have translated the whole DVD, so that the menu and everything would have been accessible in sign language. Unfortunately there was no budget to make this possible.

But as the purpose of this DVD is rather to make people managing a museum aware of the needs for “disabled” (excuse me the word) people, we are very happy to have contributed our share in making those people aware of the needs for Deaf people.

We strongly hope this DVD will ave its effect and make sign language appear in musea all over Europe.

The DVD “Open Doors” will be presented in Kiasma, Helsinki, at 15:00 on 31 january 2007.

Click here if you want to know more about Culture for All

Video: Recognition of Flemish Sign Language

This is a very old post (2006), written by Sven Noben, founder of Signfuse. Several data (and links) in this article may be outdated.

26 april 2006 has been a very special day for Deaf Flanders. Flemish Sign Language has been recognized by law on this date. SignFuse was there and created a video documentary.

SignFuse has gifted this documentary, titled “Recognition of Flemish Sign Language”, to Fevlado and the Flemish Deaf Community. Fevlado has presented “Recognition of Flemish Sign Language” for a large audience during the World Deaf Day in Hasselt. — Source: SignFuse Sign Language Media

As the recognition of Flemish Sign Language would be a historical moment for all Deaf generations, for the dead and the unborn, I was very encouraged to create a documentairy about the event.

Here, in Finland, every single event of importance is motion captured. I’m pretty used to it and a giant archive is available. As you can note in my reportage The Power of Media for the Deaf, the first film in Finland had even been recorded a century ago, in 1907.

That the Deaf community of Flanders, the root of my being, doesn’t have the access to such a proud heritage of moving images, touched my heart painfully.

Deaf people have to be proud to believe in themselves. Now what’s a better resource for proudness than a glorious history? Okay, there are many written resources, but isn’t the eye of a Deaf person the channel to his heart?

I had the great opportunity to watch the archive of the Finnish Culture days of the Deaf (kulttuuripäivät). I was really impressed. About 25 hours of video had been recorded over a timespan of +- 40 years.
The archive revealed changes in Deaf mentality, Deaf culture and more. It was highly revitalizing to see those people alive, showing their frustrations and joys.
I have made a selection of the best video’s out of this archive for the ceremonial movie of the 50th Culture Days.

As Flanders would have Flemish Sign Language recognized, and no professional or semi-professional person was going to film this, I felt it as my duty to fly over and back and capture this historical moment on tape.

Fevlado, the Flemish Association of the Deaf granted me support and paid my flight, for which I am very thankful.

And off I went, 1 day back home with a 3CCD cam, really happy about the joyful event, but even more happy I could save this day for the generations to come.

In assistance of reporter Hilde Verhelst I captured 2,5 hours of film, of which I would finally destillate a 20 minute documentary in Final Cut Pro.

The result has been gifted by SignFuse to the Flemish Deaf community and Fevlado.

Fevlado will sell this movie, “Erkenning van de Vlaamse gebarentaal”, in DVD format.

You can also view this video online at Google video, but unfortunately Google is twisting our nicely 16:9 formatted video to a crappy 4:3 format.

Many thanks to Hilde for reporting.
Many thanks to Fevlado to make this historical document possible.

Title: Recognition of Flemish Sign Language
Length: 20’54” – Language: Flemish Sign Language
Format: DVD or view online

Win $100 by Vlogging for DeafRead

This is a very old post (2006), written by Sven Noben, founder of Signfuse. Several data (and links) in this article may be outdated.

DeafRead does a great job by supporting the growth of Deaf Vlogs. It proves this by awarding the best Vlog about DeafRead by 100$.

Update: This contest has been won by Jon Savage – Congratz! His video can be seen on YouTube.

If you know ASL and have a webcam you can give it a try! You can find more info on their website: Blog Contest

By doing this, you’re not only make a chance to win, but even better, it offers you a great opportunity to make your way into vlogging, and enrich the vlogosphere with a higher presence of ASL.

I wish all the Deaf vloggers in the world, both inside and outside the contest, the very best luck to win. The prize is not neccesairely $100, but certainly a happy audience enjoying your Vlog!

The contest closes on December 1, 2006

Mobile Guide in Sign Language

This is a very old post (2006), written by Sven Noben, founder of Signfuse. Several data (and links) in this article may be outdated.

The the Finnish Museum of the Deaf is very concerned about creating access to their collection for sign language users.

They used to have a computer standing in a corner of the museum. The computer provided explanation on diferent topics presented throughout the museum. The information was accessible in different languages, such as written Finnish and Finnish Sign Language (SVK).

This system has been serving for many years, but with one big disadvantage: The computer was situated in a corner of the museum, so the visitor had to run from the collection to the computer each time s/he wanted explanation.

One simple word, already mentioned in the title of this topic, became the keyword of the solution: Mobile.

The Finnish Museum of the Deaf knocked on the door of SignFuse with the wish to have a mobile guide for their museum.

We didn\’t have to think over this twice, as it was the kind of project we\’d always wanted to do.

We decided to create the interface for sign language users in the first place, and only in the second place for users of spoken or written languages.

This was a great asset, as our design could be created with a very different perspective, the sign language view.

First we made a paper prototype and tested it with several visitors, recording their actions on videotape.

Analyzing the user behavior was extremely helpful in discovering imperfections of the project model.

Together with Juhana from Omnivis we started coding and researched different handheld computers.

Today, there’s no more rushing in the museum. Deaf visitors can easily wander around collections with all the information right in the palm of their hand.

People can now simply select a topic they want more information about in their sign language of choice.

The mobile guide nowadays provides information in 5 different languages; English, International Sign, Finnish, Finnish Sign Language (SVK) and Swedish.

The guide was first presented at the Finnish Culture Days for the Deaf, and later for an international audience during the Deaf History International Conference in Berlin.

People generally reacted very positive to this new tool.

Today SignFuse and the Finnish Museum of the Deaf are already planning on a new and more advanced version of this mobile guide.


Sign Language Spam?

This is a very old post (2006), written by Sven Noben, founder of Signfuse. Several data (and links) in this article may be outdated.

Geez, the last few months my inbox gets loads of annoying, poorly inspired letters. “You have to read”, “You require to read”, “You must to read”, “You should to read”.

Apart from the horrible english, where have those more sensational (and shocking) titles been? I’m citing: “Break through walls with your c***!”, “Viagra falls” or a just more kindly “I LOVE YOU!” – Bang! bye computer…

Spam, it’s the nightmare of every self-respecting internaut. Thanks to efficient Bayesian spamfilters, most shocking topics get filtered out. That’s why spammers try nowadays with boring keywords such as: “you … to read”. The word is changing to mislead the smart filters.

During my 9 years online presence, I have heard about spam in about any language in the world.

But, wait, not about sign language spam

Thank god I haven\’t ever received spam in my mother tongue! My white, sweet language, shall thou remain thy innocence, takest mine eyes.

Just imagine spam would be spread in a sign language, that would be really bad. Filters, nor any algorythm is smart enough to decode a message delivered in a sign language…

Hence, the power of our language! Computers can nowadays decode realtime handwriting, speech and even images. But never has any software succeeded to decode a simple signed message!\r\nSign language beats technology 🙂

But anyway, as technology gets cheaper, the chance to get a spam message in sign language in your inbox is getting closer. And your filters won’t block it out, or they will have to block any incoming video.

But honestly, somewhere, I’m pretty curious how such a sign-spam would look like, just for once, for a good laugh!

Would there be this woman explaining me in ASL how viagra works?

Or would a Deaf man tell me I MUST buy a fake rolex? If he’s smart, he’s wearing a mask, not to get recognized by other Deafies. That’d be funny!

Getting sign-spammed in sign language. The dark side of sign language media in the future… Let’s hope it never happens!

Anyway, would it ever happen, anyone who has seen the first spam in sign language, email it to me straight away! I need a laugh!

Blue Key

This is a very old post (2006), written by Sven Noben, founder of Signfuse. Several data (and links) in this article may be outdated.

Whenever I am surfing the internet for sign language video’s, such as SignStation, I’m getting lots of messages against a flashing blue background, called blue key.

This is kind of annoying me, but also surprising me. It seems that, for some, if you want to be serious about sign language media, you need a blue background.

However, the color blue as it appears in blue key screens, is meant to create the highest contrast possible with the human body. And exactly this high contrast is annoying my eyes.

Blue key screens are meant to be replaced with another image, for example of a forest or a weather map.

Even though, when people are creating a message in sign language, the myth exists that it should be filmed against such a blue screen.

Is it because deaf associations order a small studio and then find a blue screen in it, and then imagine they should use it?

It is appealing that in some countries the blue screen is used effectively (replaced by another image) and others don’t. And it is appealing as well that those countries who replace their blue-screen by another image are often strong DEAF-AWARE countries, such as the USA, Finland or Sweden.

What the hallway is for a house, is the background for a video. It makes the first impression and tells us more than you’d think.

In the first place, the background in a video tells us where the signer is located. In the city, a forest or at work.

When we see a signer against a blue screen, he’s obviously in a studio.

I don’t think the viewer wants a window on a studio, he’d rather like a window through the studio to another world.

It’d be much nicer if video’s that don’t need the blue backdrop would opt for a softer color (have a look at the curtain section of your local store). Or try to film the video against a real background, one that suits the context.

Don’t be afraid to experiment outside in your backyard, take the studio-lights to the office or go to the forest nearby.

But always make sure that there IS enough contrast between the skin-color and the background. Otherwise you’ve just jumped to the other side of the river.

New Website of VIA Interpreter Office

This is a very old post (2006), written by Sven Noben, founder of Signfuse. Several data (and links) in this article may be outdated.

VIA has come with a revolutionary new website for Finnish Sign Language users.
We benchmarked it and used our hammer on this diamond, but it seemed almost rock-solid. Almost…

First I’d like to say in this review that I am very, very happy that Via, an interpreting office in Finland, has chosen to make their website accessible for Finnish Sign Language users.

I would advice any Sign Language Interpreting organization in the world to follow their footsteps, as Sign Language is their core business, and Sign Language users their customers.

The design of the Via website is very fresh, futuristic and appealing. It feels like a wink to virtual reality, in -The Matrix- style. A lot of new ideas have been implemented, which of course will inspire SignFuse and many others to create even better media in the future.

Have a look: Via Website (opens in new window)

When entering the site, the design is very clear. Avatars {?} are signing at a very nice pace. They don\’t sign all at the same time, so the eye doesn\’t get overloaded. The user gets control over which avatar {?} signs, by hovering the mouse over the it.
Interpreter shirts have different colours, putting the eye candy right where it belongs. Buttons on top of the main window repeat the same colors again. But it would have been nice to see a face in the button too. No face, no mimics, no intonation. Mimics are anyway an integral part of sign languages.

Browsing the site for a while, the sleek white background is making eyes tired. A softer colour would help.
For some more extended topics, one can select a subchapter. This is very useful when one needs to search or skip content.

A very revolutionary introduction in this new website, from my perspective, is the multiple choice feature (see screenshot on top). It uses the 3D space of sign language to set both options, very smart!
But it could be finetuned. It should have the option to have the question repeated. Visitors aren’t always very concentrated. Also a back-button in case you want to pick the other choice would be great.

Spoken about back-buttons, the browsers back-button has absolutely no use on this website, it reloads the whole thing.
This violates the rules of usability, every internet-user loves it’s browser’s back-button.
Even worse, when you try to navigate away from the site by going back, you are locked. That’s the most sad note I have to make on this beautiful site.

After all, it is great that no text has been used, unless absolutely neccessary. For example adresses are displayed nicely in text, much better than fingerspelling them. Good choice!

But the most brilliant feature is undoubtly the contact feature where one can send a message very easily over webcam. Yours to check it out!

I give it a huge 8/10 – the second best website created by a non-Deaf webdesign company I have ever seen, after Websourds.


EU regulations to forbid Deaf Vlogs?

This is a very old post (2006), written by Sven Noben, founder of Signfuse. Several data (and links) in this article may be outdated.

Along the Times Online (thanks Christian), the European Commision is making a broadcasting proposal that would require video blogs (vlogs) to turn down.

The article is situated here: Times Online

It’s positive EU governments seem to be aware of the problems existing, and are trying to avoid extension of the broadcasting regulations towards the amateur video.

Mr. Woodward, the broadcasting minister said: “It’s common sense. If it looks like a TV programme and sounds like one then it probably is.”

I think one day YouTube and consorts will have grown so much towards TV Programmes that everyone can create one.

It gonna be a very tin line…

Broadcasting regulations were a good thing during the pre-internet era, when broadcasting meant reaching millions of people with a single program.

But internet is diversity and freedom of choice. Nowadays 1 person has access to millions of information resources instead of vice versa.

Broadcasting on the internet means reaching a small niche, such as the Deaf Vlogosphere does, or reaching a real big audience, as some hyped movies succeed in doing. When companies like YouTube are growing like they do now, the day that they will have their own shows and formats is not far.

It is going to be a huge political question to be solved. But as they proposed themselves, it should not hurt the new internet models, even if it were just for the huge amount of money.

Countries are non-existing on the internet. If the EU forbids Vlogs, Deaf people might just upload their Blogs on servers in India or on server-platforms somewhere on the pacific ocean.

Avatar or … Sign Language Interpreter?

picture by Keian_hk

This is a very old post (2006), written by Sven Noben, founder of Signfuse. Several data (and links) in this article may be outdated.

Avatars appoint game characters, wouldn’t it be more correct in the following situation to use this term for interpreters? It could be rude still to call them humans…

The word “avatar” is frequently used in the computer gaming world to describe a graphical character, who is actually living inside the boundaries of the game. In older times, these were also called sprites.

In analogy to the living character in a game, I prefer to call interpreters inside a software program avatars as well. A, they are controlled by the user of the software (interaction) and B, they do speak sign language as their mother tongue inside the software. They don’t talk, they just know a Sign Language.

I will clarify this: in the real world where the interpreters are filmed for use in the software, they are humans, they are interpreters. But when the interpreters become part of the software and you have manipulating powers over them, it would be cruel to call them still human. More even, in the boundaries of the software where their film is living, they don’t know spoken or written language, Sign Language is the only language they know in the software. So we can’t call them interpreters anymore.

That’s why I suggest to use the word avatars, in analogy with the gaming naming conventions.