Known as StorySign, it is claimed to create an authentic reading experience. A statement from the company said the app would be available in Australia from February 2019.
Huawei Australia has struck a deal with Deaf Australia, a local charity, to encourage support and donations for those affected, and to offer the app to the Australian deaf community. The company is also looking to raise awareness of deaf literacy.
“Deaf children don’t learn to read in the same way as hearing children. Many struggle to learn how to read because they can’t match words with sounds," said Kyle Miers, chief executive of Deaf Australia.
“We’re very hopeful that it [the app] will make a significant impact in the deaf community, helping more deaf children learn how to read at the same level as hearing children," says Mark Wheatley, executive director, European Union of the Deaf.
"We also hope the launch of StorySign will support a wider conversation about ensuring equality in every aspect of their lives for deaf people.”
The company statement said: "Created with experts and charities from the deaf community across Europe and in Australia, StorySign uses Huawei AI, featuring powerful image recognition and optical character recognition to provide greater accuracy even when the child or parent positions the phone at an angle from the book.
"The AI further optimises the speed at which pages from the book loads in the app meaning that children won’t be left waiting too long to find out what happens next in the story."
Apart from Deaf Australia and the European Union of the Deaf and its local charities across Western Europe, publishing partner Penguin and the acclaimed animation specialists of Wallace & Grommit fame, Aardman, have also been involved in creating the app.
“When creating Star, the character for StorySign, we first had to immerse ourselves in the world of sign language,” said Neil Pymer, Interactive Creative Director, Aardman.
“The complexity we found is overwhelming, so we needed to make sure that we created a character that not only resonated with the audience but also fulfilled its main job of teaching children to read.
"For example, we learned that facial expressions play a critical role in sign language, so we created a character to embody that expressivity. At the same time, Star was designed to seem like an older sibling, somebody who will guide you through the book. Seeing the reactions of children when realising that Star signs the words in the book is something very special indeed.”
The app can be downloaded free from Google Play Store and the Huawei AppGallery in 10 markets across Western Europe and will be available in Australia from February 2019 with Auslan compatibility.