Global tech firm Huawei, Penguin imprint Puffin Picture Books, Aardman, FCB Inferno, the European Union of the Deaf and the British Deaf Association are all partnering to launch StorySign, a free reading app that enhances story time for deaf children and their parents.
Available in the UK and nine additional markets across Western Europe on the Huawei AppGallery and Google Play Store, the app lets children hold their smartphone up to the words in a book and an animated avatar developed by UK-based Aardman (Early Man) uses sign language to sign the story as the printed words are highlighted. StorySign‘s launch features Eric Hill’s popular children’s book Where’s Spot? from Penguin imprint Puffin Picture Books, as well as Peter Rabbit: A Peep Inside Tale and Three Little Bunnies. The app is available in British Sign Language (BSL) and also covers sign language for the French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Irish, Belgian Flemish, and Swiss-German markets.
To deliver a seamless translation and user experience, Huawei used artificial intelligence and an understanding of sign syntax in the development of the app. And because facial expressions play a critical role in sign language, Aardman customized the app’s avatar, Star, to both resonate with the audience and fulfill its job of teaching children to read.
Currently, there are 32 million deaf children worldwide, many of whom struggle to read, and now the app’s partners expect to raise global awareness of deaf literacy issues.
To support the launch, London-based production company Dog Eat Dog released a short campaign film directed by Oscar-winning director Chris Overton (The Silent Child) and Huawei created an accessible Christmas experience in the Lapland region of Finland for deaf children and their families offering festive storytelling, gingerbread making, carol singing and visits from Santa.
StorySign arrives as the children’s entertainment industry is making moves to be more inclusive by providing accessible content. New York pubcaster WNET, for one, recently launched Railway Hero, a new accessible digital math game based on the PBS KIDS series Cyberchase. Hasbro, meanwhile, teamed up with The Autism Project to launch ToyBox Tools, a new collection of online resources designed to make play more accessible to children with developmental disabilities.