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Huawei launches StorySign app to help deaf children enjoy the magic of storytime

The smartphone brand is using the power of AI to help deaf children and their parents learn to read together

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Global technology leader Huawei and the Irish Deaf Society have announced the launch of StorySign, an app that will help enrich story time for deaf children and their parents.

The app features a friendly avatar, Star, who guides children and parents through a selected children’s book, translating it into perfect sign language and signing along to the story in real time.

StorySign was created with experts and charities from the deaf community to ensure it is a genuinely useful tool, and the global technology giant recently visited the Holy Family School for the Deaf in Cabra to showcase the technology.

There are approximately 32 million deaf children globally, and many struggle to learn to read, often due to a lack of resources bridging sign language and reading.

There are 103,676 people in Ireland identified as being Deaf, hard of hearing or deafened and within that statistic, there are 5000 Irish Sign Language users.

Sign has no written form as there is no direct English word-for-word translation, which poses a huge challenge to deaf children learning to read.

According to new research by Huawei, parents of hearing children believe that reading to their children is a vital part of their development – most positively impacting their imagination (78%), knowledge (71%) and communication skills (62%), while 57% of these parents state that reading stories together relaxes their child, helping to achieve lower stress levels.

Reading together is also important for bonding; 76% of parents say reading together with their children is the activity they value most, and 34% of parents said reading stories as a child was one of their most treasured memories.

Pioneered by Huawei and featuring the beloved book ‘Where’s Spot’ by Eric Hill at launch, StorySign is available for free in Ireland – just in time for Christmas, a time when quality family moments are at the forefront of people’s minds.

Developed with an understanding of sign syntax to ensure a seamless translation and user experience, StorySign helps to open up the world of books to deaf children and their families; users simply hold their phone up to the words on the page and avatar Star signs the story as the printed words are highlighted. This helps parents and children to learn to read together, and at their own pace.

Andrew Garrihy, CMO Huawei Western Europe, said, “At Huawei, we believe in the power of AI and that technology can make a positive difference in the world. We created StorySign to help make it possible for families with deaf children to enjoy an enriched story time.”

“We hope that by raising awareness of deaf literacy issues, people will be encouraged to donate to or support one of the fantastic charity partners we are working with across Europe.”

John Sherwin, CEO Irish Deaf Society also commented, “The new StorySign App, shows the potential of technology to transform communications for families and schools. The first phase of the project, aimed at young children, shows how learning Irish Sign Language can be fun for the whole family.

“The Irish Deaf Society are excited about how this programme can be developed in the future. We look forward strengthening our partnership with Huawei.”

StorySign launched with a film by Academy Award® winning director Chris Overton and starring seven-year-old actress Maisie Sly, both of whom worked on Oscar®-winning short film The Silent Child.

The StorySign film sees a young girl struggling to read with her father on Christmas Eve. Later that night when she sneaks downstairs to peak at her presents, she is stunned to see Santa who hands her a book for a gift.

Upon realising that the little girl is deaf, Santa begins to sign the book to her and in that moment, she is the happiest little girl in the world, as he helps her enjoy the magic of story time.

Donations can be made via the StorySign campaign hub on the Huawei Ireland website throughout December and all money raised will support deaf child literacy projects across Europe, including more books for StorySign.

StorySign can be downloaded for free from Google Play Store and the Huawei AppGallery in 10 markets across Western Europe.

Huawei worked with local charities under the European Union of the Deaf, publishing partner Penguin and animation specialists Aardman to develop the app.