Sunday, March 3, 2024

Mindoro HS students create app to help deaf Pinoys communicate

Two students from a regional science high school in Oriental Mindoro have created an Android application that allows persons with hearing disabilities to communicate through icon-based hand gestures.

Marian Elaine Dechaves (in black) and Charmaine Galindez show how to use the app
Marian Elaine Dechaves (in black) and Charmaine Galindez show how to use the app

The mobile app, dubbed ?I Hear U,? was developed by Marian Elaine Dechaves and Charmaine Aubrey Galindez from Bansud National High School-Regional Science High School for MIMAROPA (Mindoro Marinduque Romblon Palawan).

The app was part of the Regional Invention Contests and Exhibits that was held recently in conjunction with the Southern Luzon Cluster Science and Technology Fair in Puerto Prinsesa City, Palawan.

The app is basically an instant messaging system with icons showing the various dactyl or hand gestures representing letters and numerals to spell out words to relay various messages.

From its main menu, users can choose from ?Normal? or ?Deaf? configurations. The Deaf option shows a keypad with various finger-gesture icons with its equivalent alphabet subscripts.

The user then types in the desired message using the dactyl alphabets and sends it through the phone’s built-in Bluetooth file transferring device. The recipient then receives the message in pure alphabet characters.

Dechaves said they originally planned to let the receivers get the message in dactyl icons. However, those who tested the system preferred to receive the normal alpha-numeric characters rather than the icons.

Their mobile app went on a trial run recently at the Gloria Central School and Juan Morente Sr. Memorial Pilot School in Oriental Mindoro. The demo was evaluated by 30 users in the Special Education class of the schools.

The app's interface consists of hand gesture icons with its equivalent alphabet subscripts
The app’s interface consists of hand gesture icons with its equivalent alphabet subscripts

The application is still on its early stages, and Dechaves said that its SMS capability will be improved further in the next phases of development.

Another area of improvement is its data transfer capability using Bluetooth technology, which can only reach up to 10 meters. The phones have to be paired via Bluetooth every time the app is used.

The two budding programmers also said the app could only be used locally since there are no standards yet in finger-spelling technique. Dechaves explained that internationally, the technique varies in different countries like in Germany where finger-spelling is based on the palm lines, while India has different sets of references.

“We developed this app because we noticed that majority of apps cater only to the typical type of consumer and we want an app that will address the needs of persons with special needs,” explained Dechaves.

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The two students have just started their journey in the tech world. According to Dechaves, she only learned about programming or writing codes a few months back. “I just taught myself to code,” she says.

Similarly, Galindez says that programming for her was more of a hobby. “We learned how to code using the Ai2Live Complete software, which also gives us the needed tutorials,” she says.

Aside from coding algorithms for the app, the two also learned the nitty-gritty of designs. Dechaves explained that she consciously picks fonts and colors that match the preferences of intended clients.

“You cannot use red because the color is too strong and could hurt your sight in the long run. Then someone suggested to use blue, but blue and other dark colors are attractive to mosquitoes,” she shares.


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