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Huawei's AI-powered storybook app for deaf children

03 Jan 2019

Huawei Australia has launched an AI-powered app designed to improve the reading experience for children who are deaf and hard of hearing.

The app draws on Huawei’s AI engine to provide sign language page by page for the popular children’s book, Where’s Spot. The child or parent positions the phone at an angle from the book. The AI then optimises the book’s page load speed in the app.

“At Huawei, we believe in the power of AI and that technology can make a positive difference in the world,” says Huawei Australia corporate responsibility manager Lisa Connors. 

“We created StorySign to help make it possible for families with deaf children to enjoy the truly magical moments of story time.”

The app was created with the help of experts and charities from the deaf community. Huawei partnered with charity organisation Deaf Australia to encourage support and donation to those are affected. The company says it also aims to raise awareness of deaf literacy on a broader scale.

“Deaf children don’t learn to read in the same way as hearing children. Many struggle to learn how to read because they can’t match words with sounds,” says Deaf Australia CEO Kyle Miers.

“The deaf community is in need of accessible content to address children’s literacy development needs and digital tools like StorySign is addressing this necessity. For this reason, we are privileged to be working with Huawei on the StorySign project and how, through the use of AI and innovative technology, it could enrich the lives of Australian deaf children and their families in a meaningful way.”

StorySign is also part of a film starring seven-year-old actress Maisie Sly and directed by Chris Overton.

The StorySign film sees a young girl struggling to read with her father on Christmas Eve. Later that night when she sneaks downstairs to peak at her presents, she is stunned to see Santa who hands her a book for a gift. Upon realising that the little girl is deaf, Santa begins to sign the book to her and in that moment, she is the happiest little girl in the world, as he helps her enjoy the magic of story time.

The European Union of the Deaf was also involved in the project.

“We’re very hopeful that it will make a significant impact in the deaf community, helping more deaf children learn how to read at the same level as hearing children. We also hope the launch of StorySign will support a wider conversation about ensuring equality in every aspect of their lives for deaf people,” says European Union of the Deaf executive director Mark Wheatley.

StorySign can be downloaded for free from Google Play Store and the Huawei AppGallery in 10 markets across Western Europe. It will be made available in Australia from February 2019 with compatibility with Auslan. 

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