h a l f b a k e r y
Not so much a thought experiment as a single neuron misfire.
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Deaf folks use sign language. The most commonly used has a sign per word or concept, sort of like Chinese. Just as computers can translate a given sequence of text from english to spanish, it should be possible to translate text to sign language.
I propose that a program that assembles a sequence
of short video snips could serve as a translator. I thought that something like this might exist but on searching I found this animated thing which seems much fussier than snips of live video of a real translator. Also anyone who has watched live sign language translation will be impressed that signing is a whole body affair, not just puppetlike arm movements as seen with the animation.
The program could help deaf kids learn to read. It could do closed captioning. Also, once the program exists other types of sign language video snips could be inserted. Even better, the availability of this tool in American Sign could help spread this particular language to be adopted by deaf people everywhere.
Animation sign language translator
Not as good. Use real actors! [bungston, Sep 11 2009]
0.72 seconds of video
This could be used to send signs. [bungston, Sep 11 2009]
||// user of one can't generally understand the other //
||<Raises right fist, extends middle finger upwards>