SLAIT is all about translating sign language into AI-powered interactive lessons

Millions of people use sign language, but the methods for teaching this complex and subtle skill have not evolved as quickly as those for written and spoken languages. SLAIT School wants to change that with a interactive tutor powered by computer visionso that aspiring ASL speakers can practice at their own pace, just like in any other language learning app.

SLAIT started in 2021 as the AI ​​Sign Language Translator (hence the name): a real-time video chat and translation tool that can recognize the most common signs and help an ASL speaker communicate more easily with someone who doesn’t know the language. But early successes faltered as the team realized they needed more time, money and data than they were likely to get.

“We got great results at first, but after several tries, we realized that there just isn’t enough data at the moment to provide a complete translation,” explains Evgeny Fomin, CEO and co-founder of SLAIT. “We had no opportunity to invest, no chance to find our supporters, because we were stuck without a product launch – we were in limbo. Capitalism… is hard.”

“But then we thought: what can we do with the technology we have from R&D? We realized that we needed an education solution, because our technology is definitely good enough for education,” he continued. Not that there are lower standards of human learning, but the fluidity and subtlety of fluent and mature sign language is much harder to capture and translate than one or two words at a time.

“We found an extremely talented man (CTO Nikita Nikitin) to help us develop a product, and we made SLAIT School. And now we have our first customers and some traction!”

Existing online sign language courses (here’s a solid list if you’re curious) are generally quite traditional. You have lectures and demonstrations, glossaries, illustrations, and if you pay for them online, you can have someone review your work via video. It’s high quality and much of it is free, but it’s not the kind of interactive experience people have come to expect from apps like Duolingo.

SLAIT School uses an updated version of the gesture recognition technology that powered the translator demo app to provide instant feedback on words and sentences. Watch it in video form and then try it until you get it. Currently it’s only for desktop browsers, but the team is also planning a mobile app.

“We have some room for improvement, but it is exactly what we set out to deliver. Students can access the platform, practice, gesture, interact with the AI ​​teacher, and it costs them the same as an hour with a personal teacher,” Fomin said. “The mobile apps we want to do for free.”

Users can take the first few lessons to see if the system works, then it’s $39 per month, $174 per half year, and $228 per year. The price may seem steep compared to large-scale language apps backed by capital and other business models, but Fomin stressed that this is a new and special category, and real teachers are their main competition.

Image Credits: SLAIT School

“We actively communicate with users and try to find the best prices and the economic model that makes subscriptions affordable. We would really like to make the platform free, but so far we have not found an option for this. Because this is a very niche product… we just need to create a stable economic model that will generally work,” he said.

The traction is also a flywheel for the company’s technology and content. Gathering information (with explicit opt-in permission, which he says the community is happy to provide) allows them to expand and improve the curriculum and continue to refine their gesture recognition engine.

“We see two directions to grow in,” Fomin said. “The first is to cover more language groups, such as British Sign Language and Japanese Sign Language. We also want to make the curriculum more adaptive, or provide a curriculum for medical and scientific signs. If we have enough investment to grow and scale, we can be a leading global platform to automate talking to doctors in sign language.”

Then he said, ‘Maybe we can finally develop a translator. We can break this barrier!”