‘Like Siri for ASL:’ Local start-up Sign-Speak has real-time translation software for ASL to speech, text


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Sign-Speak is a new startup that just received a “Google For Startups” grant, totaling $100,000. The company has pioneered software that can translate ASL into both text and spoken word in real time, vice-versa.

This Rochester-based startup is led a RIT computer science graduate, Nicholas Wilkins, and an NTID at RIT grad, Nikolas Kelly, as well as another founder, Yamillet Payano. She even moved from Washington D.C. to Rochester to help out with this company.

She says this software uses artificial intelligence and deep learning, and unlike previous ASL translation technologies, this just requires the everyday camera that’s in your computer, phone, or tablet; unlike other systems that require ASL gloves or a 3D camera.

This comes at a time when the new virtual world has made things even harder for the deaf or hard of hearing community.

“It’s very hard, even with a cochlear implant to — in person — take everything in. Sometimes people ask deaf people to lip read, then they get frustrated,” she said. “So it’s very hard to pick things up, in person, now that everything’s moving online, it has only gotten worse.”

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