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 Several data (and links) in this article may be outdated.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.