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Can AI Become Skilled At American Sign Language?

It would be so fascinating if artificial intelligence (AI) could learn American Sign Language. Then again, is it even doable? Well, one student in India named Priyanjali Gupta built an AI model that was capable of translating American Sign Language into English in real-time. Gupta’s AI model was in fact inspired by a data scientist Nicholas Renotte’s video on Real-Time Sign Language Detection. According to an article, “She invented the AI model using Tensorflow object detection API that translates hand gestures using transfer learning from a pre-trained model named ssd_mobilenet.” The AI managed to translate basic signs like hello, please, I love you, thank you, yes and no.Is Learning American Sign Language From an Artificial Intelligence Ideal?Technology is evolving, and individuals can now e innovative inventions. Even though it is amazing that some people design inventions like AIs that can translate ASL to English in hopes of bridging the communication gap between the Deaf and hearing people, it is probably not good and realistic to learn ASL from AIs for a couple of reasons.1) Artificial Intelligence is quite limited.As mentioned, American Sign Language isn't only about connecting with the hands but also includes facial expressions and body movements. The facial expressions can mean different things when signing. For example, “raised or lowered eyebrows” are used depending on the questions being asked. “Raised eyebrows” typically show that the questions are a yes or no type of question. In contrast, “lowered eyebrows” questions often demonstrate questions needing a response. Body movements include moving when referring to a dialogue of various speakers in a conversation, or demonstrations of proud vs. timid, etc.. It's essential to see the person’s face and the whole body, so that you get the whole input of both facial expressions and body language. A lot of people would like to learn American Sign Language virtually or in person, so that they can see the whole body, including the signer’s signing, body movements, and facial expressions.2) AI won't be able to answer questionsIf somebody is learning a new language, that person will usually have plenty of things to ask about the language structure itself. Unless the AI is programmed with plenty of knowledge about the linguistics of ASL, the key aspects of Deaf culture, and is regularly immersed within the Deaf community, it would be difficult to answer most questions properly. Real life is constantly changing, and people, along with their language, conform to the changes. New signs are constantly being created nowadays. AI wouldn't be able to carry on with those changes; therefore would quickly be filled with outdated information. The AI would consist of superficial knowledge, which simply demonstrates the common signs, and those signs are translated to English.3) AI won't be able to translate the value of facial expressions, body language, ASL grammar, and also sentence structure, nor key facets of the Deaf culture and Deaf community.ASL is an expressive language, and thus facial expressions and the language are important when signing. Facial expressions and body language can modify the meaning of a story. ASL’s grammar and syntax aren't the same as in English. For example, the correct sentence structure in English is, “I'm going to the store,” but in ASL, the sentence turns to, “Store I go.” The one who programs the AI is most likely not Deaf; therefore, the program could easily convey wrong ASL.4) AI doesn't have the day-to-day real-life experience.It is still a long way to go for Artificial Intelligence before it even compares to simulating a real person’s knowledge. It can't even recognize most specific signs or signer’s styles. In order for someone to become proficient in ASL, the best methods will be watch slow-motion ASL video classes, exclusive one-on-one lessons, go to Deaf socials and connect with Deaf people. You can certainly learn a lot from real-life conversations when it comes to how ASL is being utilized into day to day life.5) A conversation with AI seems not real and not authentic.AI is extremely robotic and doesn't sign as fast or as easily as a real person can. A real person’s expressions are also much more animated than any known AI, which makes the conversation much more personal and meaningful. It will always be highly recommended that the newbie signers communicate with Deaf people in real-life conversations.To conclude, it's wonderful that people are inventing new forms of AI that help fix the communication gap between Deaf and hearing people. Then again, ASL, the Deaf culture, and the Deaf community hold a great deal of history and importance. Many Deaf people think that AI would only take away the core value of both their language and culture. In the event AI teaches ASL, the language can easily be wrongly modified and stray away from the authentic ASL structure, and Deaf people definitely want to stop that from happening.In the end, AI would not make communication between Deaf and hearing people better or easier. The ideal solution to this problem would be for hearing people to learn American Sign Language either online or face-to-face from an actual Deaf teacher. The moment more hearing people start to learn true American Sign Language, it'll make Deaf people’s lives and communication much easier.


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