Wednesday, 21 August 2019 15:44

Hear, hear: Deaf Australia sees true value in Huawei StorySign AI app


In an address to the National Press Club in Australia, Deaf Australia CEO Kyle Miers hailed the success of the Huawei-developed StorySign Artificial Intelligence technology and has called for additional funding to help increase the usage of similar new technologies to support greater numbers of deaf Australians.

I don't know if, in the land of the deaf, the one-eared man or woman is King or Queen, but I can certainly see the appeal of Huawei's groundbreaking and free StorySign Android app that turns the text from selected books into Auslan sign language, bringing books to life and helping deaf children enjoy story time.

iTWire first reported on StorySign in December 2018, when it launched in the UK.

In March this year, Huawei then launched the StorySign app in Australia using Australian sign language, known as AUSLAN, with Yellow Wiggle Emma Watkins as the app's Australian Ambassador.

This was followed by news of Huawei winning an impressive seven awards for its StorySign campaign at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, including four Gold Lions, adding to the growing array of award wins for its app designed to enrich story time for deaf children and their families, which you can read about here

Now comes news of an address at the National Press Club, sponsored by Huawei – a longtime supporter of Deaf Australia – by Deaf Australia CEO Kyle Miers, who told the audience that since partnering with Huawei on launching StorySign last December that StorySign had helped bring families with deaf children closer together.

“StorySign encourages interaction between family members and the deaf child using Auslan, by reading popular children’s books together,” he said.

“Deaf people using Auslan are increasingly using smart phones/ tablets to participate meaningfully in the community.

“However, these technologies require our resourcefulness and ingeniousness to make participation happen, such as utilising several applications and devices which, unfortunately, cost more, just to meet basic communication needs.”

Accordingly, Miers called for additional funding of nearly $90 million per year to help improve outcomes for the deaf community by not only strengthening the capacity to deliver Auslan supported programs but also investing in making sure that deaf Australians can access the technologies that can help them.

“The use of communication technology means that technology must be provided alongside the necessary capacity to achieve its purpose,” he said.

“This means that a simple thing like the ability to purchase and access batteries, connection/ connectivity, applications, subscriptions, upgrades or other requirements is needed without imposing undue hardship for the person, otherwise the person is in possession of technological resources but not able to effectively use them.”

Attending the National Press Club event Lisa Connors, Manager Corporate Relations and Programs at Huawei Australia, said that Huawei was proud to have played a part in helping deaf Australians with technology such as StorySign.

“We know that the deaf community often struggles with accessing content to address children’s literacy development needs,” she said.

“With the StorySign app now compatible with Auslan, Huawei is making digital tools accessible to Australian children and we are investing in local research to support a wider conversation about ensuring equality in every aspect of their lives for people in the deaf community.“

On Sunday in the NRL Charity Round the Canberra Raiders will wear a special jersey carrying the Deaf Australia logo as part of our ongoing campaign to drive awareness of the issues facing deaf people in Australia and to promote greater inclusion – with the jerseys being auctioned post-game to raise funds.

The match will also feature a pre-match World Record attempt by the expected crowd of more than 20,000 fans who will conduct the world’s largest ever public usage of sign-language – using the local Auslan platform – and will be signing the phrase “We Are Huawei Raiders.”

You can see more info about this world record attempt at the Canberra Raiders website, while a short video of Raiders players "TRY"-ing Auslan can be seen here.

StorySign is available on Android smartphones and can be downloaded free from the Google Play Store.

For more information, and learn how you can help, visit the StorySign website here


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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