Abishek Singh, a software developer based in the United States, has developed a way for deaf people to communicate with Amazon Alexa using sign language. Using a camera, Alexa can interpret gestures into speech. Users can help expand Alexa’s sign language vocabulary by going into the translator on Singh’s website. They simply need to type the word itself then sign it using their camera and say the word out loud. Of his new technology, Singh said the inspiration lied in the question,
“If voice is the future of computing, what about those who cannot hear or speak?”
Amazon Alexa and Privacy
In the past couple of years, Amazon has encountered many security breaches with their voice assistant Alexa. In the spring of 2018, security researchers found that a flaw that would allow Alexa-enabled electronic hotel keycards to open any room in the building, while it’s also been proven that Alexa has recorded and sent private conversations. In response, Amazon claimed that this was an “extremely rare occurrence” and that they are working to prevent it from happening again. Most recently, it was revealed that Amazon employees listen to Alexa recordings in order to improve the voice assistant’s artificial intelligence capabilities.
While Singh’s technology has just been released on his personal website, it isn’t clear how quickly it will become mainstream for deaf users, if at all. However, given Amazon’s privacy issues in the past, it is possible that deaf users, as well, could be eavesdropped on, via Singh’s software. In an interview with the BBC, Singh said, “There’s no reason that Amazon Show, or any of the camera and screen based voice assistants, couldn’t build this functionality right in.”