Holoportation box is a sign of things to come for ASL learning
At a teaching symposium earlier this month, the world's only liberal arts university for deaf students explored the potential for remote learning by testing out a life-size holoportation device called the Epic from Proto Inc.
Proto (formerly Portl) launched the Epic hologram projection unit back in 2021, which is designed to "beam" life-size images of folks into a boardroom, museum or event space for real-time interaction with a sense of depth. The viewing window is touch-enabled, there are AI-powered cameras onboard, as well as speakers and microphones, and LEDs inside for helping with shadows and reflections.
The venue for the company's first application of the technology in Washington DC was the recent Visual-Centric Teaching and Learning (VCTL) Symposium hosted by the Gallaudet University – a learning center for the deaf and hard of hearing set up in 1864, and named after leading figure in deaf education, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.
The VSTL project has been exploring the use of digital visual technologies for teaching American Sign Language (ASL) and English bilingualism since it began in 2020, and the Symposium saw university president Roberta J. Cordano "beamed" into a Proto Epic to interact with attendees using ASL. She was able to see folks in front of the 7.29 x 4.5 x 2.3-ft (2.22 x 1.37 x 0.72-m) standalone unit thanks to a live camera feed, and react in real-time.
Gallaudet University's first Chief Bilingual Officer – as well as other faculty, administrators and students – also spent some time as a hologram on stage, effectively demonstrating the technology's potential for hosting speakers and guests from around the world.
"This is a dream come true for me personally and for the deaf community," he said. "For so long, we have been eager to utilize ASL and English bilingualism through hologram technology, which allows us to fully express ourselves in ASL, a spatial language."
"We started Proto to bring people together across every kind of divide,” said the company's founder and CFO/COO, Doug Barry. "We have tested Proto with our employees who use sign language and now I’m so proud to work with Gallaudet University to show how holograms can facilitate much clearer conversations and learning with ASL than any flat screen could ever provide."
The video below shows the Proto Epic helping to bring ASL to life at Proto HQ.
Source: Proto Inc.
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Oh - for Michael Dowling - eavesdropping on ASL is frowned upon - the youtube version provides music but no translation. As one who lives among the deaf I too do not know what was being conveyed, nor was I curious. But this technology will expand - and it would be a nice way to learn ASL from a teacher on your own time with virtual reality glasses - or even a 2-D computer screen.