Avatar literacy hope

The Scottish Qualifications Authority has teamed up with the University of East Anglia and the Royal National Institute for Deaf People to try to introduce "signing avatars" to provide British Sign Language (BSL) support in examinations. An avatar is more usually known as a Hindu god who descends to earth in bodily form. In this case, the avatar is a "virtual human character" who can perform BSL signing.

An SQA spokesman said: "With funding from the Teaching and Learning Research Programme, the project seeks to explore whether avatar-based signing support can help candidates with BSL as their first language when accessing our qualifications."

Initially, it is hoped the technology will help deaf candidates access the SQA's PC Passport, an IT qualification. Professor John Glauert, from the School of Computing Sciences at the university, said: "For many deaf people, BSL is their first language. They often have lower literacy than their hearing peers, putting them at a disadvantage when taking assessment tests in English."

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