NEWS1 July 2024

Signapse’s sign language technology advances Deaf accessibility

SETsquared Surrey member Signapse is revolutionising the landscape of sign language interpretation. Now, thanks to a recent successful £2 million seed funding round, the software company is set to enhance its technology and expand its reach.

Since 2020, Signapse has been on a mission to improve the quality of life of the Deaf community, which in the UK, includes approximately 87,000 British Sign Language (BSL) Deaf users, by breaking down communication barriers using AI technology.

Typically, when we consider sign language translation and interpretation, we think of human singers. While these professionals are invaluable, there is a significant shortage of skilled interpreters, leaving many Deaf individuals without the support they need. This has resulted in disparities in critical areas like health, education and employment, placing them at a disadvantage compared to their hearing peers.

To address these issues, Signapse is offering accessible and reliable communication support with its AI-powered sign language technology solutions. The goal is not to replace human signers, but to substantially increase the availability of signed content where human interpretation is challenging.

CEO and co-founder Sally Chalk explains: “At Signapse, we develop artificial intelligence solutions for clients seeking access to sign language translation and interpretation. Public announcements, websites and videos can be inaccessible if you are Deaf and struggle to understand audio announcements. For many Deaf people, sign language is their first and primary language, making even written text often difficult to grasp without the context provided by hearing. It is our job to ensure organisations provide exceptional access for the Deaf community.”

Signapse’s sign language technology centres around its AI Sign Language Translator, which uses neural networks and deep learning to provide accurate and reliable sign language interpretation. This technology includes the ability to generate sign language from text or voice, detect and translate sign language to text or voice, and create interactive sign language experiences. Its approach ensures high-quality, photo-realistic digital signers that resonate with the Deaf community, in contrast to the less accepted graphical avatars.

Since its inception, Signapse has made remarkable strides. The start-up’s AI technology generates 5,000 BSL train announcements daily, with a record peak of 8,862 daily train announcements in BSL recorded on 25 May 2024.

Since its inception, Signapse has made remarkable strides. The start-up’s AI technology generates 5,000 BSL train announcements daily, with a record peak of 8,267 daily train announcements in BSL recorded on 5 May 2024.

The company has also expanded its presence internationally by incorporating in the US and delivering Deaf accessibility solutions to clients such as CVG Airport and LNER train stations, as well as over 4,000 manual BSL translations for clients across website and video markets.

So, what’s next for Signapse? How does the company plan on utilising the £2 million of seed funding? Sally explains that the recent injection of investment, which comprises £1.5 million from investors and £500k from Innovate UK, will be instrumental in achieving several key objectives. It will enable Signapse to expand its library of sign language videos, thereby enhancing accessibility to information for Deaf communities globally.

Specifically, the funding will help drive advancements in AI technology to translate any English sentence into BSL, pushing the boundaries of current sign language translation capabilities. Signapse also intends to capitalise on opportunities in video translation to provide seamless sign language interpretation for media and communications.

Sally credits the SETsquared Surrey ecosystem for playing a crucial role in Signapse’s journey, providing invaluable resources such as funding opportunities, legal services and mentorship. This highly supportive environment has bolstered Signapse’s growth and strategic development. Moving forward, the company plans to leverage this support to attract new clients and explore marketing opportunities to expand its reach globally.

Exciting projects are on the horizon for Signapse, including the ‘First of a Kind’ (FOAK) launch of its unique sign language technology at London Waterloo Station on 10 September. This event marks a significant step towards the brand’s mission of universal sign language accessibility. All of the world’s digital information currently exists in a written and audible format. Signapse won’t stop until all this information is automatically available in sign language.