Hearing-impaired people better integrated with remote modality translation services

Dallas 29 November 2000In November 2000, the Trace Research and Development Center demonstrated remote translation services for persons who are deaf at the Supercomputing Conference (SC2000) in Texas. The demonstration is part of a "Modality Translation on the Grid" concept which could offer a variety of remote services to benefit people with and without disabilities.


The Trace R&D Center's captions-on-demand, displayed at SC2000, brought together remote-location participants for a discussion on minority issues. The demonstration showed how people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing can benefit from remote translation services and typically follow and participate in a similar discussion.

The demonstration involved a discussion among twenty participants from the Conference and different locations in the United States, like the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Boston University, and SDSC, the San Diego Supercomputer Center. The locations were connected through Internet2 and the Access Grid, which constitutes a distributed environment infrastructure for the grid, developed by the National Computational Science Alliance.

The audio signal from the SC2000 Conference was captured and sent over the Internet to the Trace Center in Madison, Wisconsin. There, a dedicated speaker re-voiced the comments from participants into a voice-recognition system. The text from the voice-recognition system was then sent back to all the discussion group locations where it was projected on a large screen for viewing. This process is similar to "Fastran", which is developed by Ultratec in Madison, Wisconsin.

The "Modality Translation on the Grid" concept should be able to fulfil services automatically, with human assistance, or a with combination of both. An integrated "try harder" feature might allow gradual migration from human-assistance to fully-automated services in cases where advanced technology is already available.

The "Modality Translation on the Grid" concept equally includes a voicing service with text-to-speech translation; an instant captioning with speech-to-text translation; a signing service with speech-to-sign translation; a sign recognition feature with sign-to-speech translation; a foreign language service with language-to-language translation; a language expertise service with language/cognitive-level transformation; as well as an image and video description tool for image/video-to-text or speech translation.

Modality translation services could benefit people with permanent functional limitations, including hearing loss, and visual and cognitive impairments; temporary limitations, like a car driver who wants to access the Web while he has to keep his eyes on the road, or a person in a noisy environment who is unable to hear; and people using small and wireless Internet devices with only restricted input and output capabilities, like, for example, cell phones or personal data assistants.

The Trace Center forms part of the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Trace is involved in the Education, Outreach, and Training Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (EOT-PACI) and is currently investigating options and promoting solutions for modality translation services within the grid. For more information, you can visit the Trace Web site or contact info@trace.wisc.edu.

Leslie Versweyveld

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