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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 May, 2005, 20:53 GMT 21:53 UK
Virtual signer for deaf web users
Virtual signer Guido
Guido has been designed to look and behave as naturally as possible
A "virtual signer" is to provide information to deaf people online.

Guido is the creation of University of East Anglia computer experts and animation company Televirtual.

The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) has been working with Guido's creators as part of the European-wide eSIGN project.

The virtual signing technology is due to be launched on the website of the Norfolk-based charity Deaf Connexions on 4 May.

RNID provided two experienced signers to translate British Sign Language hand and facial movements into a set of symbols similar to hieroglyphics.

'Body suits'

Converting the hieroglyphics into a computer language has been managed by UEA computer experts Judy Tryggvason, Dr Ralph Elliott and Prof John Glauert.

The computer package is pre-programmed to allow Guido to animate a sign taken from a growing database of vocabulary and phrases.

Prof Glauert said: "Traditional methods of animating virtual humans involve dressing people in cumbersome body suits and can be very time-consuming. With our sign language notation, experts can use a standard PC to prepare and fine-tune the animation."

To mark Deaf Awareness Week from 2 to 8 May deaf people will be able to communicate with Norfolk County Council information officers in Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library at The Forum thanks to the new project.

Sue Moore, of Deaf Connexions, is thrilled that deaf people will now be able to understand information on their website.

"The virtual reality signer will help deaf people whose first language is British sign language and for whom written English is not easily accessible.

"This technology means that they can access information a lot quicker."

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