Penticton man develops voice for the hearing impaired

Tarik Sayeed of Penticton has developed software which converts American Sign Language to voice and text which he believes will be a tremendous benefit to people from the world who are hearing impaired. - Mark Brett/Western News
Tarik Sayeed of Penticton has developed software which converts American Sign Language to voice and text which he believes will be a tremendous benefit to people from the world who are hearing impaired.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

Penticton’s Tarik Sayeed has developed a software concept he believes will turn the world on its ear.

Using new digital technology, the 36-year-old innovator has put together a program to convert traditional American Sign Language into written and audio formats.

“This (hearing) is something that we take for granted which I did myself until one day I saw this (hearing impaired) lady getting really frustrated at a grocery store,” recalled Sayeed. “This was three years ago and this technology was not available but as soon as it was I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do more.

“We are dedicated to create technology that will bring a remarkable contribution to this world and shatter that communication barrier.”

Since word of his project came out, Sayeed has been inundated with queries ranging from the hearing impaired to a high-tech firm and potential investor from California’s Silicon Valley.

As well, his company, Baby Taxi, was chosen to take part in Accelerate Okanagan’s Jump:Start:Challenge Friday in Kelowna.

Each competing firm will make a presentation to a panel of judges which includes Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services.

Winners will receive coaching and skills training in how to generate interest and investment in their products.

According to Sayeed, who previously worked in IT for a local financial firm, the technology to recognize hand gestures only came out recently.

It involves the use of the Leap Motion controller which is an electronic device that plugs into a computer and is able to read outside movements, including hand gestures.

It is currently used for entertainment features such as games, painting and other applications but Sayeed sees much greater potential, particularly, improving millions of lives.

“Speaking with a hearing-impaired person, the way she expressed her story and her challenges, quite honestly, almost brought me to tears,” he said. “She said just give me 10 or 20 sentences so I can go out there and communicate. What we are doing is very difficult and unheard of but the prototype we have already uses 10 sentences.”

He added the challenges range from as serious as a doctor’s appointment to asking the location of a washroom in a store.

“This is coming from the deaf population, they have shared this with us, they want basic communication,” said Sayeed. “They can’t do this right now and they are not comfortable using a pen and a paper all the time. With this device they feel they can be much more connected in the real world and I’m hoping this device will help them come out and be more a part of society.”

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