The following is taken from CIO - The Magazine For Information Executives, December 15, 1994/January 1, 1995 Issue, page 18.
Signs of the Times
Hearing people have been communicating by telephone for more than 100 years; not so the deaf. Now researchers, including some at the E. I. du Pont Institute, a children's hospital in Wilmington, Del., want to enable the deaf to use sign language across telephone lines. Movement is critical to signing, which can represent concepts or actions as well as words. Therefore, an effective sign-language telephone must accurately capture and transmit not just hand gestures but facial expressions and body positions as well. Richard Foulds, director of the University of Delaware's Applied Science and Engineering Laboratories, heads a team that is trying to accomplish that with a data glove, a custom-designed circuit board and a video camera attached to a PC. Unlike full-blown desktop video, the system relays just the outlines of a person's fingers, clothing and facial features, reducing the number of bits transmitted and allowing real-time communication without the herky-jerky effects common to desktop video.
Due to bandwidth constraints, it will be at least 10 years before desktop video is practical for sign communication, Foulds says. However, his system is ready now, and he is already talking with companies about mass marketing it. Reviews from the deaf community have been mixed so far. School-age users, who have grown up with computers, take to the system well; older people find the unusual facial images disconcerting.
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