Conference date and location: 24-26 October, 2011, Dundee, Scotland
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Assessing the Deaf User Perspective on Sign Language Avatars

Michael Kipp, Quan Nguyen, Alexis Heloir and Silke Matthes


Signing avatars have the potential to become a useful and even cost-effective method to make written content more accessible for Deaf people. However, avatar research is characterized by the fact that most researchers are not members of the Deaf community, and that the Deaf as potential users have little or no knowledge about avatars. Therefore, we suggest two well-known methods, focus groups and online studies, as a two-way information exchange between research and Deaf community. Our aim was to assess signing avatar acceptability, shortcomings of current avatars and potential use cases. We conducted two focus group interviews (N=8) and, to quantify important issues, created an accessible online user study (N=330). This paper deals with both the methodology used and the elicited opinions and criticism. While we found a positive baseline response to the idea of signing avatars, we also show that there is a statistically significant increase in positive opinion caused by participating in the studies. We argue that inclusion of the Deaf on many levels will foster acceptance as well as provide important feedback regarding key aspects of avatar technology that need to be improved.

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