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Huawei's StorySign App Transforms Reading for Deaf Children This Christmas

Advertising Agency
London, UK
FCB Inferno and Dog Eat Dog (DED) launch festive campaign directed by Academy Award-winning director Chris Overton

Huawei has today announced StorySign, an app that will help enrich story time for deaf children and their parents. The campaign was launched with a film by Academy Award-winning director Chris Overton, best known for his critically acclaimed film The Silent Child. 

The Western European campaign was created by London-based agency FCB Inferno. The campaign film, which stars 7-year-old actress Maisie Sly, the star of Oscar-winning short film The Silent Child, 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. The spot was produced by Dog Eat Dog (DED).

Pioneered by Huawei and launching in the UK today, 3rd December, StorySign will feature popular children’s book, Where’s Spot, at launch. Developed with an understanding of sign syntax to ensure a seamless translation and user experience, StorySign helps to open 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. 

“This film was a real pleasure to direct, I think it’s a really cool concept and it’s always fun to work with Maisie and Rachel. We actually said we’d love to see Maisie in a Christmas film this year - so it’s amazing that it’s happened and that we were all together again,” said Chris Overton, director. “Hats off to Huawei on creating a tool that will allow children with hearing problems explore the wonderful world of literacy.”

“At Huawei, we believe in the power of AI and that technology can make a positive difference in the world,” comments Andrew Garrihy, CMO Huawei Western Europe. “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.”

“With StorySign, Huawei is using the power of its AI and innovative technology in a meaningful way,” said Mark Wheatley, executive director, European Union of the Deaf. “We’re very hopeful that it will make a significant impact in the deaf community, helping more deaf children learn how to read at the same level as hearing children. We also hope the launch of StorySign will support a wider conversation about ensuring equality in every aspect of their lives for deaf people across Europe.”

The app was the brainchild of FCB Inferno. To celebrate its launch, Huawei treated deaf children and their families to a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the winter wonderland of Lapland, bringing all the magic of Christmas to life. Christmas is a very different experience for deaf children as all the sounds of the season – carol singing, jingle bells, traditional tales – that evoke holiday nostalgia for so many are missed. In Lapland, Huawei created an accessible Christmas experience for these children, with activities from festive storytelling to gingerbread making, carol singing and of course meeting Santa himself.  

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

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

“When creating Star, the character for StorySign, we first had to immerse ourselves in the world of sign language.” comments Neil Pymer, Interactive Creative Director, Aardman. “The complexity we found is overwhelming so we needed to make sure that we created a character that not only resonated with the audience but also fulfilled its main job of teaching children to read. For example we learned that facial expressions play a critical role in sign language, so we created a character to embody that expressivity. At the same time, Star was designed to seem like an older sibling, somebody who will guide you through the book. Seeing the reactions of children when realising that Star signs the words in the book is something very special indeed.”

“StorySign is not just another Christmas campaign, it’s an initiative that we genuinely hope will help deaf children enjoy the world of books” said Frazer Gibney, CEO, FCB Inferno. ‘Huawei’s technology is empowering great things, and I am thrilled that we are working with them on work that is both purposeful and creatively interesting.”

“At Puffin, we believe in the transformative power of stories. And, as part of our mission for greater inclusivity in our publishing, we are delighted to partner with Huawei in this innovative and progressive app to bring stories to life and promote shared reading in the deaf community. We couldn't think of a better book for the launch than Eric Hill’s beloved “Where’s Spot?”, one of the world's favourite first picture books. This is a truly international collaboration and we have worked with trusted partners in Europe to ensure that a classic book will be available in ten countries ready for launch”, said Joe Marriott, Commissioning Editor, Puffin Picture Books.

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

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