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New software to help sign-language users

Tarik Sayeed, a former data centre manager, performs sign language gestures that are being scanned and translated into text via his company's new software and the silver Leap controller placed in front of the keyboard.
January 15, 2014 - 2:52 PM

PENTICTON - After watching a woman who was deaf struggle to buy groceries Tarik Sayeed knew software could be a solution to her communication problem.

The Penticton computer engineer said she was trying to tell the grocery store clerk what she wanted but the clerk didn't understand sign language.

"It was a lose-lose situation," Sayeed said but the problem gave him an idea. He wants to use a combination of new software and existing hardware to turn the gestures of American Sign Language into something the clerk can understand. If he and his company Baby Taxi pull this off it will mean millions of people who are deaf or are speech-impaired will be able to talk to anyone they choose.

Part of that work has been done. Sayeed said he and his team are using the Leap Motion Controller which was already on the market. It is a small, silver, three-inch rectangle that can sit in front of a computer keyboard and costs about $100. It scans the space above itself waiting for a user to make a gesture and, depending on what application is running, a user can flip through photos, play air guitar, etc.

Sayeed said the controller can track sign language gestures too and, with his company's software, can translate hand motions into readable text or spoken words displayed or played on laptops, smartphones and tablets.

The challenge is the software and for that Sayeed convinced two Bangladesh software developers Syed Sabir and Tanveer Ahmed to join him and help millions of people.

Sayeed said he wanted talented people who were passionate about helping others.

"From the very beginning money has never been a factor," Sayeed said, although he hopes he will make enough money to keep the project going.

"People develop software to become rich, to become famous," Sabir said, but this product is not about lining their pockets.

It's not a done deal however. There is still plenty of trial-and-error programming to do and sign language to learn. The three developers are teaching themselves but they hope to recruit a sign language instructor.

Then there is the need for money and more programmers. Sayeed said he needs funding so he joined a Kelowna business program where he will be trained to prepare presentations and make pitches to investors. He is also looking for government grants.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Quesnel at, call 250-488-3065 or tweet @InfoNewsPentict.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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