The Sign-Speak Communication Revolution, Part One

Wed Jun 16 2021

On Sunday, we wrote about Conscious Capitalism and how it served as the inspiration for our company and our product. Today, we want to give you a preview into who we are, what our technology does, and what steps we are taking to ensure our values are in line with the community we serve.

We are a new tech-start up that was founded with a single purpose: to enable the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH) to be able to effortlessly interact with the outside world. The problem was highlighted most saliently to us by the fact that one of us is Deaf. Even though Nikolas has a Cochlear Implant that enables him to communicate orally, the barriers that people like him face in a world centered around the spoken word are immense. He knows these barriers because he has experienced them, and these experiences have made him the man he is today.

Our technology is the invention of our team, including CTO Nicholas Wilkins. He has software engineering experience from Google, and was academically gifted in both mathematics and computer science. After we all became good friends, he was able to immediately understand the problem from a mechanical and procedural sense, and quickly endeavored to establish a solution, using Alexa and Google Transcription as an inspiration. The product of our labors, now almost a year in the making, was the generation of Sign-Speak.

Sign-Speak is unique among the high tech services provided to ease barriers between the D/HH and their fellow human beings. It is a software tool that tracks American Sign Language (ASL) users as they Sign with a camera on a computing device, like a phone or tablet, and automatically transcribes and translates the Sign in real-time. Someone who may not understand ASL very well or at all can then read the transcription of the Sign, and respond either verbally or in text. This is then translated and transcribed back into ASL, which uses a unique grammar. It is that simple, and it is that easy to use.

Far too often, ASL is not treated as an independent language. The US Census Bureau does not record ASL users, treating them as English speakers. It was only in 1965 that ASL was recognized as a language, and we have not had any serious attempt at gathering good information on ASL users in the past 50 years. Most hearing people barely even understand that native users (or Signers) of ASL often employ written English as a second language. Our product will eliminate and reduce barriers to communication for Signers.

Sign-Speak having a Deaf CEO means a great deal to the community I am a part of, but this is by no means the end of our connection. A majority of our employees are D/HH, and we have strong ties to the Deaf community. Our business partners are sensitive to the needs of the D/HH, and we are working to ensure that among our first clients are those most frequented by D/HH individuals, both as customers and employees. We have close ties of mentorship with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and we have even generated Sign-Zone, an application that is designed to create better user feedback and build a safe space for the D/HH community to thrive on social media.

You might be wondering: “This seems like a really cool thing, but what about your competitors, and why is your technology necessary? Doesn’t the Americans with Disabilities Act solve all of the D/HH community’s problems? If you are bringing a revolution to communication, what are you revolutionizing?”

These are all questions you may have. Addressing them will be the subject of our next post STAY TUNED!