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MRM//McCann Develops First Sign Language Voice Assistant

Advertising Agency
Frankfurt, Germany
Frankfurt agency partnered with German Youth Association of People with Hearing Loss to launch the SIGNS assistant for Alexa, Google Assistant or Microsoft Cortan
Frankfurt am Main, The German Youth Association of People with Hearing Loss and MRM//McCann launch SIGNS, the first smart voice assistant solution for people with hearing loss worldwide. SIGNS is a smart tool, that recognises and translates sign language in real-time and then communicates directly with a selected voice assistant (Alexa, Google Assistant or Microsoft Cortana). In a world driven by voice commands for turning on lights, playing music or asking for the latest weather update, SIGNS brings inclusion to the digital age as around 466 million people worldwide are affected by hearing loss. 
Digital, connected, inclusive –  these are the values, the first sign language translator from MRM//McCann Frankfurt for Amazon Alexa is founded upon. SIGNS recognises and translates German sign language in real-time and then communicates directly with a selected voice assistant. The smart tool is based on an intelligent machine learning framework that is trained to identify body gestures with the help of an integrated camera. These gestures are converted into a data format that the selected voice assistant understands. SIGNS is a smart tool that works on any browser-based operating system that has an integrated camera (laptops, tablets, smartphones). SIGNS can easily be connected to voice assistant services such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Microsoft Cortana. The voice assistant processes the data in real-time and replies appropriately back to SIGNS. The answer is then immediately either displayed in text form or via visual feedback.

SIGNS was developed in MRM//McCann’ s product innovation LAB13 in Frankfurt am Main for the German Youth Association of People with Hearing Loss (Bundesjugend – Verband junger Menschen mit Hörbehinderung e.V.) as the world will be dominated by 30% non-screen based digital interaction by 2020, as Gartner predicts. With the SIGNS prototype, MRM//McCann wants to create awareness for accessibility and inclusion in the digital age. When the idea was born in LAB13, there were different concepts at the same time, now MRM//McCann consistently took it to the next step.

According to the World Health Organization around 466 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss, and 34 million of these are children. It is estimated that by 2050 over 900 million people will have disabling hearing loss. Hearing loss may result from genetic causes, complications at birth, certain infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, the use of particular drugs, exposure to excessive noise, and ageing. People with hearing loss benefit from early identification; use of hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive devices; captioning and sign language; and other forms of educational and social support.

“The digital age is full of great opportunities for inclusion but at the same time faces tough challenges for certain groups as we can see with voice assistants and people with hearing loss. SIGNS is a great step forward to allow us all the access to newest technologies,” says Michelle Mohring, Chairwoman, German Youth Association of People with Hearing Loss.
“Our ambition is to help people with hearing loss and to facilitate access to new technologies, especially now as voice assistants are on the rise in our homes, our cars and in our leisure time. We have now launched the first prototype but our aim is to create an open source application, that can easily be trained worldwide by people affected by hearing loss,” says Martin Biela, ECD, MRM//McCann Frankfurt am Main. 



MRM//McCann Frankfurt am Main
Chief Creative Officer, Germany: Sebastian Hardieck
Executive Creative Director, Germany: Martin Biela
Executive Creative Director, Germany: Dushan Drakalski
Vice President Global, Product Innovation & LAB13: Dominik Heinrich
Director Creative Technology & LAB13, Germany: Mark Hollering
Group Creative Director UX: Jan Portz
Senior Copywriter / Concept & LAB13: Chris Endecott
IT Project Manager: Sebastian Klein
Senior Art Director: Jawad Saleem
Senior Motion Designer: Michael Klaiber
PR & Communications Director: Jerome Cholet
Trainee LAB13: Sofia Paz-Vivo
Junior Art Director: Irini Sidira
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