What the Tech? App of the Day: Hand Talk

(ABC 6 News) – An estimated half-million people in the United States use American Sign Language. Most of us don’t. If you’ve ever found yourself trying to have a conversation with a deaf or hard-of-hearing person, knowing ASL would b helpful. Undoubltedy, it’s a complex language to learn for most of us.

I found a smartphone app that takes what you say and translates it to ASL in a clever way.

Hand Talk is an app for iPhone and Android devices and it is super easy to use.

Simply enter what you want to say in a text box or hold down a microphone icon and speak. Next, when you hit enter, an animated character appears on the screen. They deliver what you say or text into American Sign Language.

The words appear at the top of the screen as well.

I found the app could do better with long sentences. It does fine if you break up what you say into short statements and questions. First, when I said “I am learning how to use sign language, how am I doing?” the character did not respond. Then, when I broke that up into “I’m learning how to sign”, and “How am I doing?” it worked just fine. It also responded quickly to short questions such as “Can I buy you a cup of coffee?”

You can control how fast the character signs and which character to use on the screen. It doesn’t work both ways. Hand Talk can’t take someone’s sign language and interpret it to speech or text. The person who knows sign language will need to use their phone to enter text.

Finally, Hand Talk translated nearly 2 billion words since it was launched.

It’s helpful, easy to use, and very cool. But, Hand Talk is supported by advertisements, so this free app is going to have ads pop up on the screen. If you want to get rid of those, it’s a one-time payment of $10. It’s available for iPhone and Android devices. Hand Talk won “Best Social App” in Latin America in 2015.