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Research and innovation to drive inclusivity

Research and innovation to drive inclusivity

Discover SignON: bridging the communication gap through accessible translation services

17 January 2022
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Technology is not just a way to help businesses become more profitable or productive, it must also be the key to designing a better future for everyone. To achieve this, active cooperation between private companies and academia, as well as communities and public institutions is essential. Fincons takes part in various non-commercial projects to improve quality of life for everyone and stimulate innovation, through close cooperation with research institutes and international universities.

One project that is a particularly good example is the SignON (Sign Language Translation Mobile Application and Open Communications framework) project, that was developed to help bridge the language barrier between Deaf sign language users, hard of hearing and hearing people. It revolves around cooperation between different stakeholders, EU and private business funding to achieve an objective that is greater than each of its individual parts.

One in a thousand people in the EU communicates in one of 31 national or regional sign languages as their first language. Access to information is a human right, and nowadays this depends on access to multilingual content but more importantly to cross-lingual communication.

Therefore, eliminating language barriers needs to be a priority to achieve unobstructed, inclusive and fair global information exchange.

SignON is a user-centric and community-driven project that aims to facilitate the exchange of information among Deaf, hard of hearing and hearing individuals across Europe, targeting Irish Sign Language (ISL), British Sign Language (BSL), Sign Language of the Netherlands (NGT), Flemish Sign Language (VGT) and Spanish Sign Language (LSE), as well as the English, Irish, Dutch and Spanish spoken languages.

Developed by a team of experts from different backgrounds, SignON will focus on the translation between sign and oral languages, combining the experience and know-how of Deaf and hard of hearing communities with multidisciplinary academic and industry expertise. SignON will deliver signed conversations via a life-like avatar built with latest graphics technologies. But the SignON communication service aims to be more than an advanced machine translation system. Thanks to the incorporated sophisticated machine learning capabilities to the system is open to:

  • The addition of new sign and spoken languages, contributing to the SignOn database
  • Flexible style, domain, and user preferences
  • Automatic error correction, based on user feedback.

Thanks to its machine learning capabilities SignON will allow the framework to adapt not only to the user, new use-cases and languages, but also to generate data for future research. The project will eventually deploy the SignON service as a handy smart phone application running on standard modern devices.

This project, like several others Fincons is involved in, reveals the incredible value that consortium projects can bring to communities.

Technology alone cannot bridge the gap, but when combined with cooperation between public and private entities, research institutes and businesses, communities and stakeholders it is finally possible to realize lasting change.


The SignON EU consortium is led by Prof. Andy Way, Professor of Computing at Dublin City University, Ireland (Co-ordinator), and Dr. Dimitar Shterionov Assistant Professor in Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence at Tilburg University, The Netherlands (Scientific Lead) and includes various European partners: European Union of the Deaf (EUD), the Flemish Sign Language Centre (Vlaams Gebarentaalcentrum, VGTC), the Union for the Dutch Language (Taalunie), the Dublin City University (DCU), the Katholieke Universiteit (KU) Leuven and Trinity College Dublin, MAC Ltd. (Microelectronics Application Centre), the Flemish national broadcaster VRT (Vlaamse Radioen Televisieomroep) and Fincons Group, Technological University (TU) Dublin, Nottingham Trent University (NTU), Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), the Dutch Language Institute (Instituut voor de Nederlandse Taal, INT), the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Tilburg University (TiU), UGent and University College Dublin, TTU as well as Radboud University.

Matteo Villa - Fincons Group Matteo Villa

Fincons Group

International Institutions & Research Global BU General Manager