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Computer scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have joined forces with animation specialists at Televirtual, and the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) to create a signing avatar capable of translating written web pages into British sign language.

Two signing experts from the RNID helped to translate the physicality of British sign Language into a set of symbols. These symbols have been further translated into computer code by UEA researchers, the BBC reports, which will prompt Guido to animate the appropriate gesture.

Traditionally setting up a virtual signer means dressing actual people in body suits and recording the movements. This can take a significant amount of time. Using the Guido system, the whole animation process can be done on a PC.

When you think of accessibility issues on the web, you are probably more likely to think of a blind or partially sighted person needing some kind of text-to-voice translation of a web page. However, Sue Moore, from Norwich charity Deaf Connexions, told the BBC that the package will make web sites more accessible to deaf people whose first language is sign language, but for whom written English is still inaccessible.

Guido will be going live on the Deaf Connexions site today.

In kinda related news, CEC Systems, the company behind the spoken search engine Speegle, has launched a spoken RSS service that will read out your chosen feeds, while you work on other things.

Company founder Gordon Renton says that this is not an accessibility tool, but another way of accessing information. He sees it as something akin to having the radio on in the background and envisages brokers using it to track news instead of relying on news tickers.

We're not entirely convinced, but you can check it out here. Let us know what you make of it. ®

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