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Signing Avatar App Prototype Wins Global Award

A Brazilian mobile app that translates Portuguese speech, digital text and photographs of text into sign language, all using an animated avatar, has been recognised at a global apps awards ceremony.

The Hand Talk app ( http://bit.ly/12DovWS ) – due to be publicly released later this year – was developed by Ronaldo Tenório, Carlos Wanderlan and Thadeu Luz to convert written or spoken Portuguese text into LIBRAS, the official sign language of Brazil. The app won the category for ‘mInclusion and Empowerment’ at the World Summit Award – Mobile ( http://bit.ly/Vrng8J ) for its potential as a communication aid for hearing-impaired people and others who want to learn LIBRAS.

Hand Talk translates Portuguese into LIBRAS in three different ways: users can type directly using their mobile device,  or use email or SMS text; the user can speak or record a voice into the mobile device; or the user can take a photograph of text (a newspaper headline, for example) with their mobile. For each method, the Hand Talk 3D avatar, named Hugo, will translate the text or speech into LIBRAS through an animation.

The app will be available for free during the second half of 2013 for iOS (Apple’s operating system) products, Android smartphones and tablet computers, and BlackBerry smartphones.

There are also plans to release a version of Hand Talk for the web, Thadeu Luz told E-Access Bulletin. “With Hand Talk for web, it will be possible to make the content of any website, like a news portal, financial institution or public service, available in sign language as well”, he said.

Initially Hand Talk will only translate to LIBRAS, but the app’s developers intend to expand to other world sign languages in the future, Luz said.

Although Hand Talk has not been released yet, there has been a lot of positive anticipation, Luz said: “We get emails all the time from people, saying how much our product is needed today… The response that we get whenever we do a presentation at a deaf school or deaf association is unbelievable. It’s just amazing to see how excited everyone gets because they know that Hand Talk will have a major impact on their lives. This is our greatest reward.”

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