Modality Translation on Next Generation Internet
The Trace Center at the University of Wisconsin has recently launched a "Modality Translation Services" research program designed to bring together the work of many different researchers and companies to create a spectrum of services for future use. The project is in its initial proof-of-concept stages under funding from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) and NSF.
The goal of the program is to carry out research and demonstration projects in order to build a national infrastructure of Modality Translation Services that would be available to anyone, anywhere, anytime. The system would address the needs of people with functional limitations (such as hearing, visual, and cognitive impairments), but people without disabilities would also benefit.
Types of Modality Translation
The spectrum of services envisioned would include:
- Speech Recognition (speech to text) for people who are hard of hearing or deaf (so they could see what is being voiced over the phone, in person, or by a device); individuals with limited manual dexterity (who cannot type efficiently); users of mobile Internet devices with restricted input and output capabilities; Internet users whose hands are busy (e.g. car driver); or for someone who would like a transcript of a conversation or meeting.
- Sign Language (speech to sign language) and Sign Language Recognition
(sign language to speech) for individuals who are deaf and
communicate better or more efficiently using sign language, for conversations
by a device, or over a video phone (video relay service).
- International Language Translation - for cross-cultural
or trans-global communications in conversations over the phone, face-to-face
or virtual meetings, or when exchanging documents in different languages
- Assistance/Mentoring - for providing expertise or assistance in certain situations; including people with cognitive impairments; aging individuals needing help for independent living; people in unfamiliar surroundings (e.g. driving directions); people in a mentoring or learning environment (e.g. help desks); or specialized world-class expertise (e.g. for medical doctors, scientists).
- Language Simplification for individuals with cognitive or language impairment who encounter complex content in conversations or documents; or for a general audience member listening to highly specialized professionals.
- Print Recognition (advanced Optical Character Recognition)
for people with visual impairments to access printed information (e.g. paper
documents, text buried in online images, or environmental signs); for people
foreign country to get instant translation for scanned information in a foreign language (e.g. menu cards in restaurants, tourist panels); and for generating an electronic index for legacy (paper) documents.
- Image/Video Description for individuals with visual
impairment or blindness to access graphics, images, video streams, and environments
Some of these services might be available in fully automated form in the near future while others will not be for a very long time (decades). Also, services that may be automatic in the near future may not work in all environments. A "try harder" feature is therefore proposed in the infrastructure that would allow users to easily move from inexpensive local automatic services (such as speech-to-text) to more sophisticated (and expensive) network-based automation, or even more expensive human assistance as needed, instantly, on demand. "Remote services on demand" also provides an efficient and flexible service model by eliminating the need for traveling and long-term arrangements, and offer job opportunities for people with disabilities.
For more information, please visit http://trace.wisc.edu/world/modtrans/