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Improving realism in automated fingerspelling of American sign language


Fingerspelling is a process of communicating letters of a spoken language alphabet using a person’s hand or hands. Portraying animations of fingerspelling has proved surprisingly resistant to automation because of the collisions that arise from conventional interpolation of keyframes of individual manual letters. Previous methods have not been able to provide convincingly realistic fingerspelling due to the absence of effective collision avoidance in the underlying animation algorithms. This paper reports on the development and evaluation of a new collision avoidance algorithm that aids fingerspelling. Instead of analyzing letter transitions, the algorithm capitalizes on the transitions of individual fingers. The new strategy is efficient enough to support real-time fingerspelling while still maintaining a high level of predictive accuracy. Utilizing this strategy in signing avatars is expected to improve the current resources for deaf children, hearing teachers, hearing parents, and interpreting students who want to improve their fingerspelling comprehension. Future work will include testing the strategy’s generality when applying it to other one-handed manual alphabets.

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Correspondence to Souad Baowidan.

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Baowidan, S. Improving realism in automated fingerspelling of American sign language. Machine Translation 35, 387–404 (2021).

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  • Sign language
  • Fingerspelling
  • American sign language
  • Collision avoidance
  • Sign language synthesis