An innovative application program that translates English into sign language, and vice versa, has won two students from the University of the Western Cape a place in the final of a global technology competition in Egypt next year.
Nathan Naidoo and Mehrdad Ghaziasgar beat off the challenge of computer programming students from across the country to win the South African leg of the Imagine Cup 2009, a Microsoft-sponsored technology competition which pits the world's best student programmers against each other.
Naidoo and Ghaziasgar's iSign application, which will ultimately allow deaf people to communicate with their hearing counterparts using a cell phones and other devices, was adjudged the best entry in the final of the competition at the Champagne Sports Resort in the Drakensberg earlier this month.
iSign is a research project that investigates how a hearing person is able to speak into a microphone attached to a computer, and a three-dimensional avatar translates what they said into sign language on the screen. By the same token, a hearing person can record sign language using a commercially available camera, and have it translated into English or the same avatar as above.
Naidoo and Ghaziasgar are currently researching the applicability of implementing the system on standard cell phones enabled with cameras.
A Pretoria student, Morne Ausmeier of the Tshwane University of Technology, ended a close second with his Stroke Rehabilitation Glove application, which incorporates gaming environments into stroke rehabilitation exercises to motivate patients and speed their recovery.
Naidoo and Ghaziasgar, who are both Masters' students at the UWC, will go on to represent South Africa at the global Imagine Cup finals in Egypt in July 2009.
Now in its seventh year, the Imagine Cup challenges the world's best student programmers to create applications to solve real-world problems. More than 200 000 students from 100 countries entered the competition in 2008. In all, 213 competitors from 112 teams representing over 60 countries attended the worldwide finals in Paris, France in October 2008.
The theme for the 2009 edition of the competition is "imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems facing us today".