I was so lucky and grateful that a few weeks ago I was whisked away to Lapland by Huawei. When I was asked to visit the beautiful, Finnish area, I was told very little. In fact, all I knew was I was going to visit Lapland to see something new to help deaf children. Of course, I jumped at the chance of a free trip!

Weeks later, the day before I was due to travel, I popped down to see my amazing friend, Lizzy Jay. (You may remember her from a lot of our signed song videos) I stayed with her for the evening, and got to have a really nice catch-up. Sleeping through on the sofa, I was so eager and excited to see what was waiting for me in Finland. The next morning, I woke up, got myself ready, and my car was outside ready to take me to Heathrow airport. The anxiety was really taking over, as the only information I really had for my travels was my flight to Helsinki. I had no idea how I was travelling from here to Lapland.

Finally, I arrived in Helsinki, and met the rest of the team who were from the UK, that were travelling to Lapland too. The majority of them were tech journalists, and had completely different backgrounds to me. We jumped on board our Huawei branded chartered flight, and we were all handed a brand new Huawei Mate 20 Pro each! (I’ve since searched the cost of these, and they’re about £900!) To my disbelief, I opened up my new piece of gadget, and started playing around!

When we landed in Lapland, we stepped off the plane to temperatures below freezing, which I’ve never experienced at this level in the UK before. And we started our journey to our little cabins in the middle of the woods. (Now it’s starting to sound a bit like a horror film).

The next morning, we all gathered into the hotel lobby, and we were presented with this brand new app that Huawei have developed, and have worked closely with Aardman and European Union of the Deaf to create. The amount of work and effort that had gone into this app was phenomenal, and I was literally blown away by the quality of what they had produced.

The app is called StorySign. This has been created to help deaf children have their books translated into BSL, but is also a great way for their parents to learn BSL if they have no prior knowledge of the language. What I loved most about this app, is the character ‘Star’. She has been really thought through, by creating a slightly older character than the target audience, it creates an ‘older sister’ image, which helps kids give someone to aspire to be like. She also has a ‘tomboy’ like image to help her appeal to boys too.

Another element I really enjoyed in this app was that Star really shows all the non-manual features very well. I’ve seen characters try and sign before, but it’s always seemed quite robotic. This is very natural and very human, as they have used real interpreters to base the character from.

The app works by using the camera on your smartphone to hover over the words in the book, and it then loads the words onto the screen, and Star will then translate these into BSL. As children won’t normally sit still and hold the phone still enough in the correct angle etc. Huawei have made sure that the app allows the child to move around, and scan the words at all different angles and they always load up. I have really fallen in love with the app!

Currently, the only story that is available on the app is ‘Where’s Spot?’ But I really do hope that Huawei continue with this app and add more stories, and don’t just let the hype of this new development be a marketing stunt for their new phones. I understand that a lot of hard work does go into creating these stories, as they are translated into 10 different Sign Languages, but the benefits this can have for so many people would be incredible!

Have you tried the app yet? If so, what do you think of it? I’d love to hear!

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