How a 3D Language Works

In this day and age, 3D technology is as common and as accessible as having a cellphone. 3D technology is often related to visual aids, so how can we talk about a 3D language? Well, American Sign Language and any other sign language can be considered 3D languages since communicating through them means visualizing movements and facial expressions, ergo, a 3D language.

We talked about new ways of reaching and bringing students into classrooms thanks to the use of technology. We also mentioned how there are apps out there than can help people with disabilities learn through new and exciting ways of teaching; specifically focusing on people who have a complete or partial hearing loss. We gave the example of ML2 as a lab dedicated to developing narratives through technology, aimed at those for whom regular learning methods are not available.

So, how can a language or more specifically English-language nursery rhymes, in this case, be translated into ASL, given that nursery rhymes are sound-based and ASL is not?

Much like a polygraph or a seismic monitor capture movement and reflect it as patterns, technology used to develop nursery rhymes in ASL works in a similar way. Translating nursery rhymes from English into any other language (such as Spanish or Russian, for example) is hard enough as it is; so, adding the complication that ASL does not work under the base of sound, the rhythm has to be developed differently. These repetitive rhythms are recorded through the use of common hand shapes. The motion capture system (such as the one used in movies in order to create avatars) records these “rhythms” and they work as a blueprint for the 3D avatar.

Virtual reality devices are also used to develop nursery rhymes in ASL. In real life, ASL uses all available space for communication, so it is included in the development of the apps. This also helps with words which have the same hand shape in ASL; 3D technology would help in achieving movement much like a real person would.

If you want to learn more about this new technology, take a look at what the people from Motion Light Lab are doing.

There are endless possibilities for technology when it comes to languages, so keeping ourselves up to date will help us become better language users and teachers.