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Gesture, Language and Jungles, Digital and Otherwise
November 22, 2013 - By: - In: Language - Comments Off on Gesture, Language and Jungles, Digital and Otherwise

The trees are bare now. In the naked forest,  it’s easier  to see the animals talking to each other. Across species, its mostly gesture, since our forest friends are limited by  a narrow repertoire of chirps, barks and small brain pans.

That’s how we humans got our start too, back when the forest canopy was our chief hang-out. And here in the digital jungle it remains just as important as everNot so much for the transfer of information, but for the emotional context,  which is far more critical to communication success than the mere facts.

In our own work at 1-800-Translate, its evident that handwaving has a virtue all of its own.  Gesture is what is missing from telephone interpretation, and we see again and again how users will opt for a warm body over a trained medical telephone interpreter.  We are hard-wired for gesture.

The digitization of gesture is now the final frontier in the automation of language.  The days of the keyboard are numbered certainly – I can feel it in my fingers as I dictate this post into my headset. Going forward, speech and gesture recognition will be critical to the success of the new applications for the disabled, robots and remote-controlled  systems, just for a start.

I was blown away by this Sign Language Ring, a device that detects sign language motion and translates to voice or text.   This language ring was a winner of the 2013 reddot design award for best design concept.When I realized that this was just an idea, and that they weren’t actually making them  I was less impressed, but I thought it was a cool idea anyway.  Then I thought about it some more, and I realized that it might not even  be  practical, but the mock-up sure looks like the wave of the future.  The engineers have taken note:

“Adding support for various types of gestures to electronic devices enables using our natural ‘language’ to operate these devices, which is much more intuitive and effortless when compared to touching a screen, manipulating a mouse or remote control, tweaking a knob, or pressing a switch,” writes Brian Dipert on EE|Times

So we can look forward to a time when every electronic interface will have a camera to study your every move, all the better to serve you , my dear. Think of the convenience.

More ominously, human gesture has attracted the scrutiny of the secret spy masters pulling the puppet strings of our total surveillance state.  Last week The TSA was blasted for the waste of a billion-dollar on a behavioral assessment system that didn’t work.  The search is on for a more effective way to identify enemies of the state at a glance. Think of the convenience.

This post has gotten a long way from the birds singing in the trees. More on that in an upcoming post. Next time, the real meaning of Thanksgiving.

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