Synthesized sign language avatar gets BPI-DOST top prize

MANILA—A high-tech sign-language computer program won the grand prize in the BPI-DOST Best Project of the Year Awards on January 28.

The project Translating Words through Synthesized Sign Language Avatar was the entry of the team from Saint Louis University (SLU) in Baguio City. The team that bested other teams from 10 universities and received P50,000.

The project leader, Abdullah Khayef, earned a DOST post-graduate scholarship.

The winning entry is a computer program that teaches sign-language. It uses an avatar to teach a user the standard sign language and also to create his or her own sign code for any word.

“You input the word, pick the sign elements, then save it. When the user types that same word, he can now view that the avatar is already doing the sign language,” Khayef said.

“Eventually, you can create your own sign language, like jejemon,” Khayef added.

Unlike other sign language computer programs, the sign-language avatar is generic, meaning it can accommodate different languages around the world. Other existing technologies are language-specific.

The project also allows users to define the animation itself. The users can pick different choices available in the program and the sign can be animated.

This other winning entries were from teams from the University of Los Banos, University of San Carlos (two entries), Ateneo de Manila University, and University of Santo Tomas.

Organized in 1989 by the Bank of the Philippine Islands Foundation, Inc., the BPI-DOST Best Project of the Year Awards is an annual competition that aims to recognize and provide incentives to graduating students in selected colleges and universities who excel in specialized fields of science, such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, engineering, computer science and biology.

It is co-sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology.

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