Multi-lingual lip reading computers

31 07 2009

New lip-reading computers can ‘speak’ everything from English and Arabic to Cantonese and Italian.

The technology, developed by scientists at the University of East Anglia, was developed by modelling the lip movements of 23 bilingual and trilingual speakers. They reckon it could bring huge benefits to deaf people, to law enforcement agencies and those operating in noisy environments.

Professor Stephen Cox, who led the research, said it had confirmed long held beliefs about lip movement and language. He said: “This is an exciting advance in automatic lip reading technology and the first scientific confirmation of something we already intuitively suspected – that when people speak different languages they use different mouth shapes in different sequences. For example, we found frequent ‘lip-rounding’ among French speakers and more prominent tongue movements among Arabic speakers.” The ground-breaking research was presented at a major conference in Taiwan in April.

(Hell, I could’ve told them that!)

Source: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
This was also reported by BBC News.





Ask your MP to sign EDM on deaf telecoms

24 07 2009

MPS sign Early Day Motion about modernising deaf telecoms

TAG urges deaf people to ask their MPs to sign the motion

Deaf people and those wishing to telephone them are being urged to ask their MPs to sign an Early Day Motion (EDM) calling for the modernisation of deaf telephone services.

Within hours of being tabled by the Rt Hon Malcolm Bruce MP, the EDM had gained significant cross-party support.

Ruth Myers, Chair of TAG, which is campaigning for better telecoms services for deaf people, said: “We urge anyone living in the UK to contact their MP asking them to support the motion. An easy way to contact your MP is through the Write To Me website. “We are delighted with the cross-party support that the EDM has quickly attracted and very appreciative of Malcolm Bruce for tabling it.”

Led by TAG, a consortium of the UK’s main deaf organisations, deaf people are calling for new-style telephone relay services that will enable them to use the phone much more effectively and put them on a more equal footing with hearing people. A series of parliamentary questions asked by supportive MPs has revealed some of the government’s thinking on the issue and an Ofcom report earlier this month highlighted many of the issues that TAG is campaigning about.

The EDM (number 1915) reads:

“That this House believes that deaf and severely hard of hearing people are being excluded from benefiting from modern telecommunications; recognises that improvements and modernisation are needed to the telephone relay services by which they and hearing telephone users communicate; further recognises that the technology required to bring about these improvements is available and is in use in several countries; further believes that wide availability of broadband connections will dramatically enhance the relay service facilities that can be offered; and calls on the Government to use the Digital Britain report as the basis to introduce a package of service developments and funding which will end the exclusion of a million of our fellow citizens.”

TAG is a consortium made up of the British Deaf Association, Deafness Support Network, deafPLUS, Hearing Concern Link, National Association of Deafened People, National Deaf Children’s Society, Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), and Sense.

Deaf telephone services that can change lives:

Captioned telephony

Captioned telephony was available in the UK from 2002-2007 on a very limited basis. It offers almost simultaneous text transcription of the voice channel so that people with hearing loss can follow the conversation on their PCs or telephone displays with minimal delay. Captel, the only captioned relay service in the UK, was closed in December 2007 for funding reasons.

Video Relay

Video relay enables sign language users to communicate with anyone on the telephone through a sign language interpreter. The sign language user and interpreter interact via PCs and webcams or videophones. Two services currently operate in the UK: Significan’t’s SignVideo service and a fledgling service in Scotland. In 2007, video relay services run by RNID and the BDA closed because of a lack of funding.

Text Relay

A form of text relay has existed in the UK since the 1980s and as a national service since 1991, but a strict legal regime has inhibited its development. Specifically, the current Text Relay service (formerly called RNID Typetalk) is only directly accessible via traditional analogue phone lines. Text Relay enables deaf people with keyboards and screens to communicate via an operator who speaks or types parts of conversations as required. In its current format, the relay process can be quite slow and can inhibit conversations. Nonetheless it is a hugely valuable service. TAG wants to see developments in text relay which, for example, speed up the communication and allows direct mobile and Internet access.

Media Contacts

Stephen Fleming at Palam Communications
t 01635 299116
e sfleming @ palam .co.uk

(Personally, I’ll also be writing, with disgust, to my MP regarding EDM number 1910)





Lost for words

18 07 2009

I love watching movies as it’s a great way to relax without the stress of communicating with hearing people or trying to follow something that isn’t accessible. I use a DVD postal service as it’s easier than walking to the nearest rental shop and there is a bigger selection. It’s a fantastic service, except when you receive a DVD and it doesn’t have subtitles. I’ve been renting DVDs from easycinema.com and have been watching the series Lost. All the DVDs had subtitles and indicated this on the website listings. This week, the DVD I received had no subtitles at all, so I emailed customer services and told them. I said I felt I was entitled to an accessible service under the DDA as they were a public service provider, therefore should provide subtitles. Their reply -

Thank you for letting us know about your recent faulty disc ‘Lost – Season 1 – Part 1 – Bonus Features’. We are very sorry for the inconvenience caused by this and we’d like to reassure you that we do take quality control very seriously.

We regularly check and clean all of our DVDs, and any damaged discs we become aware of are immediately withdrawn from circulation and either fixed or replaced with new stock. We’re therefore very grateful for this report as we can now take action to correct this disc.

We have added an extra credit to your account, so another rental can be sent as soon as possible from those available on your selection list. If you have selected to replace this title back onto your list, we will try and send it again for you. We hope that you don’t have any further problems in the future.

We hope that you don’t have any further problems going forward and once again we are sorry for the inconvenience caused. We hope that you will continue to enjoy using our service in the future.

I think someone has completely missed the point here! Or do they not even bother reading their emails and just press the button that says Refund? *rubs hands in glee*





Deaf people can do anything

17 07 2009

I love this video. It reminds me of a time at school when I was 17. One of my teachers said to me “You’ll never make it into university”. Not because I was thick or slow, but because I simply couldn’t hear my teachers. I didn’t have an interpreter or any type of communication aid so I was fighting hard. The teachers taught in English and my classmates would reply in Spanish, which didn’t help. I didn’t need to hear this sh*t as well. And from a teacher! Well, that made me mad. MAD AS HELL.

Mentally, I stuck two fingers up at her and I made it into not one, but 4 universities. I really do believe that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Deaf or not.

I’ve not been short on the skills either. I’ve worked in retail, law, accounting, teaching, careers consultancy, and have my own businesses. I’ve plenty of deaf friends who are accountants, entrepreneurs, teachers, lawyers….. they are all smart and sassy. They’re deaf. So what? I’d say to any person who is put down by someone else; believe in yourself and go grab your life with both hands. You deserve nothing less.





Pronunciation tip of the day

15 07 2009

I discovered this fascinating webpage which gives useful pronunciation tips. It can be very difficult to find a speech therapist and it usually takes a long time to get an appointment. I find that being resourceful is a good tip in itself!

UCL: English pronunciation tip of the day





Free energy saving products worth £54.98

14 07 2009

If you receive Disability Living Allowance you can get a free standby saver (£19.99) and electricity monitor (£34.99) from British Gas. Simply enter the code EF3 and you will need your benefits reference number (this could be your national insurance number).

Source: HotUKDeals
Thanks to Alison Bryan for the link.





Takie Piss

13 07 2009

Some subtitle mistakes are very funny. Apparently, the subtitle just before this one read: “Good Evening, I’m Piers Moron.”

Have you come across any funny ones?

Source:





Call for Telecoms and Convergent Media related research and commercial projects

10 07 2009

Here is a chance for deaf people and those interested in improvements in the telecoms sector to make a difference for deaf people by encouraging innovations and investment in new technology.

UCL (University College London) want to hear from individuals who have past, current or planned commercial activities (including spin-outs and consulting work) that target or involve telecoms innovations.

Companies ar eno longer confined to their own markets. Fixed, mobile, and IP service providers can offer content and media services, and equipment providers can offer services directly to the end user. How will new telecommunications technologies develop? Where will the social, economic and legal barriers between digital and real-world lives break-down? Where will the innovations in new media take us?

The conference on 12 November 2009 will cover:

* New telecoms and media technologies
* The need for collaboration between traditional telecom suppliers and media service providers
* The technical, legal and social problems faced and the disruptive forces to convergence

UCL are now looking to identify the following people:
LEADING-EDGE RESEARCHERS
STUDENTS
BUSINESSES AND INVESTORS
DECISION MAKERS

To express an interest in participating at the event, contact Euphame McDonald, Events & Marketing Manager, UCL Advances on advances@ucl.ac.uk

UCL Advances, UCL’s centre for entrepreneurship and business interaction, hosts a series of annual ‘Technology Innovation Forum’ events which bring together academics and researchers with established businesses and investors in order to encourage new relationships that may lead to future research or commercial opportunities.

Previous events have focused on themes such as:
Sport
Imaging
Energy and Sustainability
Medicine

The format of these events is typically focused on a half day conference that includes short presentations of recent research and commercial projects, panel discussions with academic and leading business figures and a keynote presentation. These have delivered real benefits to members of UCL and external organisations.





Unique machine deepens understanding of how brains process sound

2 07 2009

Taken from news at UCL

Researchers at UCL’s Ear Institute are using a unique machine to deepen their understanding of how the brain processes sound. This is important for deafness as the brain deciphers soundwaves and an improvement in understanding this process has the potential to improve how deafness is treated or managed.

The Ear Institute’s new small-animal magnetoencephalograph, or MEG for short, is the most advanced machine of its type in the world.

Its installation is a result of a collaboration between UCL, the Kanazawa Institute of Technology (KIT) in Japan and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris, France.

The team hopes the research it makes possible will lead to advances in treatments for deafness and a range of other conditions.

Magnetoencephalography is an imaging technique used to measure the fluctuations of magnetic fields in the brain that occur as a result of neural activity. It complements other brain activity measurement techniques such as electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

MEG has many uses, including localising a pathology and determining the function of various parts of the brain.

MEG has been used on humans for some time, but until now the machines have not been sufficiently sensitive for use on small animals.

But the Ear Institute’s machine, developed by KIT, takes the technology a step further, allowing much more precise measurements than were previously possible.

It uses specially designed, super-cooled sensors to measure the tiny fluctuations of magnetic fields in the brain, which are several orders of magnitude lower than the Earth’s magnetic field.

Researchers Dr Maria Chait, Dr Jennifer Linden, Dr Alain de Cheveigne (CNRS) and Professor David McAlpine are currently fine-tuning the machine for a series of experiments in small rodents.

Dr Chait said: “Sound is a pressure wave in the air that is converted by the ear into nerve impulses sent to the brain. We want to understand how the brain processes that information to create our perception of the world. Understanding that is one of the keys to progress in applications such as hearing aids, cochlear implants and a whole host of neurological disorders.”

An important aspect of the team’s research will involve measuring neural activity in the brains of genetically modified mice, bred to mimic a range of human brain disorders.

Dr Chait said: “MEG has been used widely to study human brain activity. However, a difficulty exists in relating the results of such work in humans to what we know about the structure of the brain, where information largely comes from animal model studies. We’re hoping this machine, which is a completely new technological advance, will allow us to bridge the gap between human and animal research leading to a major progress in understanding hearing and its disorders.”

The technique is non-invasive and the animals are not harmed in any way.

“A lot of the experiments we plan to do relate to studying the effects of long-term exposure to sound environments on the development and function of the auditory system. These experiments are fundamental to the understanding of how the sound environments in which we live affect our long-term hearing, but for obvious reasons are impossible to conduct on humans. Because these experiments involve repeating measurements over a long period of time they are also quite difficult to conduct using an invasive technique in animals. But with the MEG, we can raise the animals from birth to adulthood in specifically controlled sound environments and observe how such exposure affects the development of their hearing,” said Dr Chait.

The team also believe that the small animal MEG could be useful to the wider scientific community at UCL.

Dr Linden added: “The Kanazawa Institute chose UCL because they wanted a high-profile partner that could make proper use of the machine. It’s a really exciting piece of technology, but the potential is not limited to research at the Ear Institute. This brain imaging technique could be of benefit to scientists studying other brain functions besides hearing.”





Ofcom report into telecommunications for deaf people

1 07 2009

Ofcom have now published their long-awaited report on telecommunications for deaf people, the current provision in the UK and their recommendations. Another, more detailed, report is to follow.

I took part in this study and hope we do get captioned relay and video relay phone systems back into the UK. I’ve only made about 3 phone calls this year, and have relied instead on email, SMS, MSN Messenger, and asking hearing people to make calls for me. That’s how frustrating and difficult it can be for a deaf person to make a phone call in this modern day and age. Ridiculous, isn’t it?

Ofcom report : Foreword

Voice telephony services for deaf people

Plain English summary