Signing Avatars

Signing Avatars

Nicoletta Adamo-Villani (Purdue University, USA) and Kyle Hayward (Purdue University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-825-4.ch013
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The chapter focuses on signing avatars and their potential to improve deaf education. In sections 1 and 2, the authors give an overview of what signing avatars are and the benefits of using animated characters for deaf education. In section 3, they explain how signing avatars are created. In particular, in subsection 3.1, they describe different types of 3D models and skeletal deformation systems, and in subsection 3.2 the authors discuss a variety of methods used to animate manual and non-manual signs. In section 4 they report the state of the art in signing avatars’ research and development and we discuss existing limitations and future trends. Section 5 includes a case study on the production of the signing avatars for SMILE™ and Mathsigner™ Conclusive remarks are presented in section 6.
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Benefits And Uses Of Signing Avatars

Like videos of live signers, signing avatars allow for direct presentation of ASL in its dynamic visual form, eliminating the need for closed-captioned text, awkward representations of signs, or static sign images. Compared to video, animation technology has the following fundamental advantages.

(a) 3-D animation offers great control over the visualization of the signs; the point of view of the virtual camera that renders the signing character and the location of the character in relation to the background can be optimized to enhance clarity. (b) The speed of the signing motion can be adjusted to the ASL proficiency of the user, of great importance for children who are learning ASL. (c) Individual animated signs can be linked together smoothly to form sentences, without abrupt jumps or collisions as would happen when concatenating video clips. (d) 3D animation allows for user programmability; unlike videotapes and CD-ROMs of video clips for which programmability is very limited (clips can be composed but with great difficulty and discontinuous results). Programmability can be utilized for: generating infinite number of drills; unlimited text encoding; real time translation; limitless combinations of signs. For example, manual signs and facial expressions can be combined in any desired manner under program control. (e) Animations can be stored and transmitted remotely using only a small fraction of the storage and bandwidth costs of comparable video representations.

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