The NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories is coming up with technology that automatically generates animated sign language in order to expand sign language in news broadcasts.

The automatic sign language translation system converts strings of words using Japanese as well as sign language sample texts. While subtitles works for people who understand Japanese, sign language is still preferred by most deaf, especially those who are deaf from birth.

The technology still suffers from inaccuracy but as a fall back, an interface is added wherein a human can jump in and translate if needed.

According to the report, the goal of the research is to apply this technology to the news when a disaster occurs. It can be difficult to obtain a human sign language interpreter when there are breaking stories and news flashes, so this kind of system would be invaluable.