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Winning at TechCrunch Paris by translating sign language with deep learning

Sogeti Labs
January 30, 2019

I was writing a post and it turned out a bit too long, so I figured an article would suit better.

Last year we won the IBM challenge at the TechCrunch hackathon in Paris during the Viva Technology event. Quick recap below and a cameo of me doing some explaining. (After a 6-hour road trip and no sleep for over 32 hours, can you tell?)

But I still owed you a video of our winning concept! We built an app to translate sign language to (spoken) text and integrated text-based emotion recognition on the IBM Watson Platform, using the Vision API:

Pretty cool if you ask me 🙂 Keep in mind, none of us were actual sign language users. We just gave it our best shot at learning overnight and invented our own sign for the non-existing word ‘hackathon’.

Non-data science enthusiasts may stop reading now. It’s gonna get a bit more technical.

After the hackathon and Watson trial, I built another PoC using the open source tool DarkFlow. (After I was able to ambush my cousins for more training data during a family meet-up.)


“This Hackathon is awesome!”

It’s just 4 words and took over an hour for 100 pictures per class on a Geforce GTX 1080Ti to get it working on out-of-sample yours truly. You can imagine the problem grows exponentially when you need to identify and distinguish more signs/gestures. And to string words to sentences you’d need to interpret context because it turns out in sign language, not all verbs can be inflected. But for a limited vocabulary, this concept would definitely work. And the network itself can still be tweaked as well of course:

Between working for my start-up Wavy and my current client, it’s a shame I don’t have any time to develop it further. But if anyone else would want to give it a try: DarkFlow allows data scientists to train their own real-time object detection models using a TensorFlow implementation of the famous Darknet framework. Some of you have seen it without even knowing it, but it’s the framework behind the real-time object detection videos you see made with YOLO.

Go check out DarkFlow (literally as in git) and create beautiful things!

About the author

SogetiLabs gathers distinguished technology leaders from around the Sogeti world. It is an initiative explaining not how IT works, but what IT means for business.


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