LAS VEGAS.- A Latino entrepreneur may have the key to facilitating the integration of deaf people, or those with speech disabilities, with an artificial intelligence (AI)-based app that allows for smooth, “barrier-free” conversation.
Yamilte PianoShe is of Dominican descent, and is one of the creators of Sign-Speak, a tool she has been developing since 2021 that translates sign language into voice, text, and vice versa, as she explained to EFE.
The 27-year-old began developing the app after noticing the difficulty of living a normal life for her boyfriend, Nicholas Kelly, who was deaf since birth, a social problem also fueled, Piano said, by the shortage of interpreters in the United States.
The businessman commented: “There are interpreters, but there is a great shortage, both here and in other parts of the world.”
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The U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), one of the few studies conducted to identify people with hearing loss or deafness, found that one in 20 Americans is deaf or hard of hearing.
That is, approximately 10 million people in this country have hearing problems and about 1 million are “functionally deaf,” according to the Census Bureau.
Baiano is convinced her application will “break down barriers” for people with hearing disabilities, who are often “one of the great forgotten people in this community.”
He stressed: “We create technology like this so that they can do what they want and achieve their goals in life, and so that speech difficulties are no longer a problem in the ability to develop.”
Brian Hertnicki has been deaf since birth, and he realizes that this “revolutionary” app has changed his daily life.
“I’ve been able to have easier conversations, no matter where I am. I can communicate without barriers,” he told EFE.
The young man explains that sometimes, such as when he went alone to the supermarket or restaurant, he had some trouble making himself understood if he did not have an interpreter next to him.
“This app will help all of us, not just people who are deaf or dumb, but also hearing people who will have an easier time communicating with us properly,” he said.
For this application, Hertnicki agrees that the development of generative AI, which learns and creates content using different modes such as spoken or written conversation, has played a crucial role.
Technology that will allow deaf people and people with speech difficulties “to have the same opportunities as hearing people,” Hertnicki noted.
Yamilt Payanu, who studied mathematical sciences and economics at American University, and other founders of Sign-Speak believe that at a further stage, the platform could also be used between people who speak different languages.
Looking for investors
In this business venture, Payano has joined forces with his friend Kelly and Nicholas Wilkins, and the three are looking for investors to support this project, which is currently in the initial stage.
It received support from the AWS Impact Accelerator, a division of e-commerce giant Amazon, which has allocated more than $30 million to projects led by minorities in the US, such as Latinos, women, and people from the LGBTQ community.
This week, Piano traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada, where the annual AWS conference is being held these days, an unmissable event for technology developers and where AI projects took center stage in this edition.
“This is also a good opportunity to find investors who want to finance the project,” Baiano admitted.
Ana Torres, who works as an interpreter in Amazon’s People with Disabilities division, believes technology can be used to make a positive impact on people like those she represents.
He defended that “technology has many good things and one of them is to put it at the service of these people.”
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