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Science Nation: Signing Made Easy

3 minutes

(Describer) Streams of light collide to create a globe filled with water. Title: Science Nation. A boy puts on gloves – one red and one purple.

(male narrator) Gloves, camera, action. Thomas Nelson is playing CopyCat, a unique, fun way to learn sign language.

(male) Let's see what the tutor says to say.

(Describer) A man signs in the game.

"The cat is under the chair."

(narrator) Thomas was two when doctors diagnosed profound deafness. My first thought when I discovered he was deaf, I would never hear my son tell me he loved me.

(Describer) Signing, Cheryl Nelson reads to him.

...and added a dozen eggs.

(narrator) Cheryl immediately started to learn sign language. But it's not easy.

(Describer) He wears a hearing aid.

Studies show that nearly 75 percent of hearing parents of deaf children never become fluent signers.

(male) Only 25 percent of kids are getting good sign language at home.

(Describer) Thad Sterner:

They're so behind learning language, they're missing school lessons.

(narrator) With support from the National Science Foundation, computer scientist Thad Starner and his team at the Georgia Institute of Technology are developing interactive tools like CopyCat to make sign language easier to learn for the deaf and the hearing communities. This cell phone app called SMARTSign helps hearing people who get stuck on a word. Careless.

(female) It gives you the sign. Having it on your cell phone is a huge help.

(Describer) Video plays a person signing.

More.

(narrator) Though his son can hear... Do you want more?

(narrator) Jeff Wilson taught Wyatt simple signs months before he could talk. Whenever we gave Wyatt a bottle of milk, we'd do this sign, American Sign Language sign for milk.

(Describer) A hand squeezing.

Eventually, he started doing it without any prompting.

(narrator) So instead of crying for his bottle, he signs. Good job.

(narrator) CopyCat is primarily being developed for classrooms. Thomas wears gloves with motion sensors. A camera tracks his movements. When he signs correctly, he earns points and moves on.

(Starner) Children must help Iris the Cat find where these evil monsters have stolen things.

(narrator) Starner's team is putting

(Describer) He watches smartphone video.

captions on cartoons, so the deaf community can finally get in on the nuances and the jokes.

(Describer) The globe turns.

For Science Nation, I'm Miles O' Brien.

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Experts say learning sign language is on par with an English speaker trying to learn Japanese. It’s not easy. And for this reason about 75% of hearing parents can't sign fluently to their deaf children. Thad Starner, director of the Contextual Computing Group at Georgia Tech, and his team are developing devices to bridge this communication gap. With funding from the National Science Foundation, they’re making it easier for both kids and parents to learn sign language.

Media Details

Runtime: 3 minutes

Science Nation
Episode 1
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 2
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 3
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 4
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 5
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 6
4 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 7
4 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 8
4 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 9
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 10
4 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12