Fincons Group, an international system integration consultancy, is project-lead for the project consortium which includes: two research entities, the University of Surrey (UK) and the Fraunhofer HHI Research center (DE), two end-user organizations, VRT (BE) and Swiss TXT (CH), and Human Factors Consult (DE).
In addition to featuring ground-breaking innovation, CONTENT4ALL importantly aims to help broadcasters make additional content available in sign language, reaching a broader and more inclusive audience while also reducing production costs. The solution will thus enable broadcasters to meet increasing regulatory requirements such as those set out by the UN in Art.30 and 21 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Michele Moretti, Fincons Group CEO, comments: “Fincons Group has always focused on investing in innovation as a catalyst for growth, enabling us to develop our offering and approach international markets with cutting-edge solutions. We are proud to win with a project that combines some of our core values such as innovation and engagement in socially beneficial initiatives.”
“A key part of our process is to develop innovation that stems from real market requirements so that the results of our R&D, even at pre-competitive stage, can truly benefit both the community and our clients. The cooperation between partners and the composition of the workgroup, which includes two broadcasters, ensures that the project responds to real market needs,” adds Francesco Moretti, CEO Fincons.US and Fincons Group Deputy CEO.
To achieve these bold objectives, the team created a workflow integrated within a real broadcasting scenario that reproduces a sign language interpreter as a realistic virtual human in real-time. The sign language interpreter can be located in a remote studio while signing animates the virtual human generated at the broadcaster’s premise.
The technology is based on advanced Deep Learning algorithms which track body, face and hand movements and derive parameters to animate the virtual human. The end-result is a 3D photorealistic avatar, named “realatar” due to its remarkable correspondence to the real person.
“This award represents further stimulus to continue advancing our innovation and research objectives through cooperation with international institutions and partners. It confirms the potential of the work carried out in our research and innovation teams and we’re delighted with this achievement,” notes Matteo Villa, Head of International Institutions & Research, Fincons Group.
“Receiving this award is recognition of the hard work carried out by our R&D teams, but also of the spirit of innovation and cooperation shared by the whole consortium. As the team continues to investigate new solutions we are also working on algorithms and technologies to explore automatic sign generation starting from subtitles,” concludes Giacomo Inches, Innovation Technologist at Fincons Group and project manager for CONTENT4ALL.
“The content4all project to me is much more than combining AI and Avatar technology. It is rather a movement towards every day virtually tele presence in TV production also providing more freedom of choice to the deaf. We are proud that we could contribute to this movement as part of the national Swiss public broadcaster,” adds Robin Ribback, Head of Innovation Management, Swiss TXT.
“For Flemish public broadcaster VRT, inclusivity matters. We are proud to see how this European research project delivers solid results in the important field of sign language. VRT wants to thank all of the partners in the project and considers this award as a helping hand in implementing even more sign language into our production processes,” ends Stijn Lehaen, CTO VRT.