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hi all,

we, at google+ are passionate about bringing people together. and for us on hangouts it’s about really connecting small groups together face to face (to face to face... ). bringing people together from around the world... and bringing them together in a new way. we all have a human need to connect and communicate. some find communicating in this world easier than others.

one area that i'm personally quite passionate about is facilitating communications and community for the deaf. my grandfather, aunt, and uncle were/are all deaf. while i’m very much a novice, i find ASL to be a beautiful expressive language. i hope that hangouts can be awesome for the deaf & hh community as well as the hearing.

that said, i know that Hangouts aren’t good enough yet for this purpose. voice switching on the loudest speaker isn’t the right cue in this world; we need an indicator for who has the floor; i’m sure there are subtle issues that i don’t know.

so i’m asking for help. i’d like to invite a set of deaf/hh users and their signing families into Google+. we need folks who will actively dogfood Hangouts with their friends and family. we need folks who will partner with us, giving us feedback and iterating with us. i’ll jump them to the front of the invite line to get into Google+. (don’t tell Vic!)

so... how?

if you sign and are yourself deaf or are friend/family to someone who is, and you're willing to help... let's get your signing friends & family into g+. send me a private post letting me know.

we’ll hold a few signing hangouts with you to verify, and then give a set of invites for those verified to give out.

as always, thanks for being part of the overall community, and thanks for those would be willing to help us with this effort.

Lyn Wiley's profile photoTs Derek's profile photoMarlee Lambert's profile photoAntonia Losch's profile photo
It would be handy to be able to set a hangout to text only. Not only to make sure that deaf users don't miss anything, but it would also make it a hangout that required far less being glued to the chair.
And as Mark Z. and that dude with the hat on said this morning...that is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what fb is for...they claim fb was designed to keep in touch with people "you really care about", I am still unclear what they mean by that, because quite candidly in some way or another I care about all 6.7 billion people that live on the planet...but to hear them talk it means I go in my car and randomly meet somebody at the grocery store become friends with them by later meeting them at Starbucks someday, THEN they can be in my fb network. How slow and inefficient is that for expanding horizons and really bringing about about social interaction among everybody on the planet!? Very slow if you ask me. Go G+ Go!
What a wonderful idea. :)
This is fantastic! Always happy to see tech used to improve peoples' lives in such a meaningful way.

Thanks, +Chee Chew! We won't tell Vic ;-)
Have you thought about collaborating with Perkins School for the Blind? ( The school is famous for its work with deaflblind students; for example, Helen Keller attended Perkins prior to enrolling at Radcliffe College. They work with teachers of the deafblind in many countries, and also manufacture over 600 kinds of assistive technologies. In addition, they do a lot of work with parents and families. Perkins is really an amazing educational-industrial complex, in addition to being a school for a few hundred students.

I know that their communications team is extremely interested in all kinds social media, and would like to encourage you to think about collaborating with a cluster of deafblind people who are afilliated with Perkins as alumni/ae, friends, volunteers, and families. I recommend that you talk to their director of online communications, Kimberly Emrick.
I love that you're exploring this! Thank you.
really impressed that you're doing this!
This is such a great idea! I learned sign to help some people at church many moons ago and I found sign to be a wonderfully expressive language. Maybe because of my 15 years of dance background. I definitely think that the video technology of today has brought so much to the hearing impaired world. I like your ideas for making it more friendly for that subset of users. I wanted to also promote the idea of getting some of the schools involved!
Thanks for the amazing work! I love this initiative :)

I don't have any candidates for this project, but I have a small request concerning hangouts. Can you please add an "Ongoing Hangouts" box right under the "In Your Circles" box in the sidebar (to the right)? I'm having difficulty finding out who in my circle is currently hanging-out. A nice list of "currently hanging out" people in the sidebar would be really useful.
I so knew this would be awesome for the deaf community! I use ASL but I'm not all that good at it. Sad, too, cause I'm a very experienced community builder and manager - 12 years. This is awesome though - for what it's worth you have my full support!
Actually, I wonder if someone could learn or sharpen their ASL skills though Hangout. Now that would be something. I know of a famous national restaurant that has two deaf busboys at one location. They're awesome but the rest of the staff is behind. It'd be so cool to get them all into a hangout and get the staff up to speed. Lots of great things could come from this.
+Deborah Elizabeth Finn there are a few organizations that we are working with. however in my limited experience, diversity really matters. subcultures and conventions in different regions develop. i'm hoping to get a wide range of fdbk.

+Anni Bricca i hope hangouts can indeed be a way for those who are interested to sharpen their asl skills, and thereby connect to deaf & hh friends they might not otherwise meet!
+Chee Chew I'm not the best at it, but I have people willing to teach me. This would provide an outstanding way for me to have multiple teachers. I have 3-5 friends that I would like to introduce to Hangouts. I'm sure it would be beneficial for the information you are looking for.
Interesting concept, one would also assume you guys can come up with a way to take inbound audio channels and also place them in using left/right volume settings in a virtual "spatially friendly way". I've seen this done via Microsoft Research where you put head phones on and as people interact with one another they are positioned in set position on the 180 degree axis. ?
Very interesting and great work here - any thoughts about increasing accessibility for the low-vision/blind community?
This is an excellent project within G+ :) I can't do more than use the alphabet and say "How are you" in BSL but I'm sure there would be people who'd be interested among the users of various disability forums and blogs I'm connected with over here in the UK. I'm also unsure how much difference there is between ASL and BSL but perhaps we could put the word out to the deaf/deafened people in our communities if that's ok with you?

Also liking +Arkenor Oakshadow 's suggestion of text hangouts. Are you working on getting accessibility tools for sight-impaired people on here? Or could you point me to a team member who is? As I said when I sent in via 'Send feedback', a small panel of text-size/contrast buttons would be very useful if integrated across all google platforms. We've never yet found a gadget for it on Blogger... Thanks :)
I am hard of hearing and its made things like Vent and Mumble not usable for me, but with hangout I'm able to read lips of the people I've spoken with. While it's not as good as face to face, it's really a great thing and I hope that once G+ opens up I'll be able to actually speak with friends and family.

When I actually cried with joy at reading this post and finding out that Google and the Google+ team actually care about all of their user base. Thank you very much for just thinking about us.
I love how ideas are just jumping out with new ways to use this technology. My question is if the video can recognize hands? Or maybe just movement faster than our normal head bobbing. If so that could be used in place of volume.
What a great idea! Amazing use of technology. GO GOOGLE
We can have true 64bit plugin? Install multilib only to run a plugin don't work :(
I came to suggest the same thing +Mark Furry did. Can the plug-in be used to detect excessive movement over the norm or detect moving hands? I know it's not difficult to detect a face as my particular webcam/software (Logitech 9000 Pro) can detect a face and layer a drawn avatar over it. Perhaps something similar can be done to detect hands.
Perhaps partner with The National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a school at the Rochester Institute of Technology! I'm sure they'd love to help. /shameless plug - I'm an RIT student/
+Dio K Is the one you want to talk to. The nicest person in the world, and an active Google user.
thanks for the suggestions around RIT & NAD. we're already talking w/ some folks in both. I do think it's important to have a broad diversity of folks. local customs and dialects and creative ideas come from diversity. So it's not only about having enough people participate, but also having a diverse enough set of folks.

+Doug Smith i'll follow up in a prviate thread.
Hi Chee,
I am currently learning Auslan (Australian sign language), and have a lot of hearing, hh and Deaf friends that sign.

Let me know if you're keen on having them help you out.

I sent a limited message about this. I have a friend fluent in ASL. I'll include their e-mail as a comment to the limited message once they give me their permission.
Wayne & Chee. We will spread the word to our friends in the Deaf Community. Can you post a specific address you want them to start at (or perhaps email it to me). Let me know what else I can do to help!
I am soooo excited that Google is including my sweet niece and her need to connect in their planning! So awesome!
I sent an e-mail to a German signer I know to spread the call here. Not sure about the differences between ASL and DGS, but I'm sure they will. Cudos for including this in the beta phase and not bolting it on later as an afterthought.
I concur with all the above. Bravo to the folks at Google and particularly +Chee Chew for reaching out to a people group who could be impacted by using Hangouts and Google's video technology in an #awesome way.
+Chee Chew

Chee, while I am not able to personally help this friend of mine is if you add her in.
BSL (British Sign Language) user level 3 studying to level 6 and working towards becoming a translator... She is a volunteer at all the deaf events and support deaf and HH people in and around her community so can play an active part if you so wish?
I've been looking for groups to sign with like crazy and can't find a single one in my area - these hangouts are a great idea! I'm very interested in getting involved!
Although I don't have any friend or relative who fits into the category, But I was MOVED !!
God Bless you for putting that bit of extra effort into Google+ and personally you, for caring for people and fellow Brethren of this world :)
Emily L
I have a friend who works at a school for the deaf, who would love to give this opportunity to the students and teachers there. However, I can't figure out how to send a "private post".
do a private post by doing a regular post but only putting one person on the "to" line. i'l send you a post, emily, that you can reply to.
+Chee Chew I am a pretty good signer (certainly not fluent) and have quite a few Deaf friends. I would absolutely LOVE to test and share this idea with them :) Fantastic idea Chee!
Chee, this idea is very interesting from an algorithmic point of view. I can envision a motion factor given to each participant. View switching within a hangout could be automatic based on volume and motion.

I think the factor would even be interesting for fully hearing enabled hangout groups. Someone dancing on screen might get "the floor" during quieter moments. Also, a physical demonstration might take over the view while someone else is narrating.

Have fun with the code. I'm excited to see how this unfolds.
If Gallaudet University hadn't just decided to kill off their Computer Science department, I'd say they might be helpful. I can think of a programmer at Gallaudet that might be interested in helping test this all out though.
My friend +RobynFranklyn is an interpreter for the court system. I will contact her today.

Anything in the offerings for the blind/low vision?
We are writing an AppList for the learning disabled too (+AppAdvice shares Googles passion for access to all) does your team have any other awesome access features planned?
I've got some deaf friends and friends who have deaf kids. I will pass this information on to them. Great idea. :)
There was a large deaf community on Seesmic back in the day (when the focus was on video chatting). You might ask +Loic Le Meur and others if they could get in contact with some of them. I'm sure they'll love to test it for you.
+Christi Nielsen +Loic Le Meur I still mourn the loss of Seesmic's threaded video discussions. That was truly groundbreaking. Is there any chance that Seesmic will bring it back, or that Google+ will add that as a feature?
I teach ASL at my local community college. This would be great for me to use with students who have questions and then I could show them the signs rather than trying to explain them in English.
I hung out (irl) with a group of asl kids once. It was interesting to see them have a rapid discussion. There was one thing that grabbed my attention as to who would pay attention to the other. They would rapidly wave their hand (as if in hello form) to say, me, me! then when they got enough eyes they would start talking. Having an ai in facial/eye movement recognition for this would be key.
That's the second time someone mentioned motion detection. I'm liking the idea a lot. Would help me get people's attention in the middle of a voice conversation when I have something to say too. I've noticed in hangouts occasionally two people will start talking and forget someone else is there and may have something to say.
I liked the idea :) I'm deaf and use hearing aid but don't use sign. Are you thinking something about lipreading? I'm interessed on this!
+Giseli Ramos i think the needs are a little different for each. resolution and consistent frame rate is much more important in this case. i do think it's important. this particular effort is focused on signing use case.
dumb question, because I have only used it once - but hangouts has a chat option, right? You don't have to talk if you don't want, or if your friend can't hear you - you can just type, right?
In addition to Gallaudet, be sure to poke the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Betwixt the two campuses, I'm sure you'll be able to dig up folks.
+Rob Gordon It is not that there is no way to communicate, but that the written word is easily misunderstood. Video chat allows full expression and full understanding. It is fun, fast and clear. I am of the firm belief that all technology should be accessible to everyone. I hate the thought that anyone would be kept in antiquated technology because they were different. The future belongs to all of us, regardless of handicap or any other physically difference we have. :D

Wow, so far, this status update has +182 and 613 shares which makes it the most popular update that you have posted on G+ and clearly demonstrates the general interest by users to improve Hangout.
University of Washington also has done some applied work with video and sign language so you may want to check with them as well.
+Christi Nielsen They migrated to where it's very much thriving. It's solely video comments in ASL.
+Jared Evans indeed, we hired one of their graduates into our team here in kirkland google.... you can see her posts on html5 track :)
+Mackenzie Morgan Would like to add a bit more about the recent changes at Gallaudet: while you are correct that the Computer Science program has been closed, it has been replaced by a new major, Information Technology. There are still computer programming classes at Gallaudet.
+Jared Evans Oh, well good to know there's still programing there, but it seems odd to me to call programming "IT" ...that's more of a sysadmin/netadmin/dba/etc connotation
+Mackenzie Morgan A competent IT professional would have good grasp of programming concepts. The interest in pure computer science has declined over time while IT is on the rise. Gallaudet is adjusting to this new reality.

My name is Jason Horowitz. I am Bradley Horowitz’s brother. I am a field sales/technology trainer for Starkey Laboratories, the largest American-owned and operated hearing aid manufacturer ( We have manufacturing facilities in 25 countries and are a global presence. Needless to say, I deal with the deaf and hard of hearing on a daily basis, as well as the audiologists who help them bridge the gap from isolation to hearing. The solutions may be conventional aids, bone anchored hearing aids, cochlear implants or aural rehabilitation.

Starkey is a leader in philanthropic work as well. Perhaps you’ve seen our founder, Bill Austin, giving away new homes on Extreme Home Makeover. Marlee Matlin, one of our spokespeople, has appeared on Dancing with the Stars and Celebrity Apprentice raising awareness and funds for the Starkey Hearing Foundation. The Starkey Hearing Foundation ( has donated over 400,000 hearing aids to indigent children worldwide. We are dedicated to help the community you speak of.

That said, it would be my great pleasure to connect you with candidates for your endeavor. My territory encompasses the District of Columbia which is home to Gallaudet University. Gallaudet University, the world's only university in which all programs and services are specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students, was founded in 1864 by an Act of Congress, and its charter was signed by President Abraham Lincoln. I have relationships with all of the staff and directors and could connect you with them.

I’d be happy to connect you with a small group of deaf college students, all proficient in ASL, who’d be willing to assist. I’ve already solicited some friends and their interest to assist was zealous. If the scope of your vision is larger, I’m happy to enlist the vast resources of Starkey and their relationships within this community as a resource to you.

I could envision this as a wonderful tool in the extended learning opportunities for the deaf and hard of hearing community. I could see it as a tool for new cochlear implant patients to fulfill their aural rehabilitation training from the comfort of their own home and of course as a venue for friends just to get together and “hangout’.

Let me know what I can do to forward your efforts to the next level!

Awesome, Chee - I'm thrilled to see Google continuing to support accessibility =).
I'm disappointed with HangOut's YouTube feature - Where's the captioning support? :-/.
I love what you are doing, even tho' I'm not deaf & have no deaf family members.. I want to help you spread your message! The internet can really help the deaf in ways I never understood before I saw this young woman on Youtube, not deaf herself, but signing songs for the deaf.. BEAUTIFUL!! Ally ASL Songs
Feel free to message me, add me & let me know how I can help! = )
I'm a sign language interpreter, and I would be happy to "dogfood" (what an odd word!) Hangouts with other fluent signers and deaf people.
Nina D.
I'm the deaf German DGS (Deutsche Gebärdensprache, GSL) signer that was mentioned further above by +Scot Stevenson and got an invite thanks to him. If I can in any way contribute to the project, I would be more than happy to! :-)
This is awesome. I'd love to help!

I am hearing, but became fluent in ASL in college. I went to Rochester Institute of Technology, which hosts the National Technical School for the Deaf. NTID has 1,600 deaf and HH students, and I had the awesome experience of being a resident advisor on a mainstreamed floor (50% hearing/50% deaf).
I'm a deaf dude studying at RIT/NTID, so hit me up. I know a bunch of signing ppl :)
I just tested Hangout with a deaf friend - I use a Mac and she uses a PC. The lag was so bad we couldn't understand each other signing. Speed was all over the place, mostly laggy. :/
D Boyd
Maybe instead of the person with the higher mic volume, there could be a way to use most pixel changes in the video feed. Another menu item at the bottom to include the ASL graphic for "connect" to activate the pixel change monitoring for that person's camera.

It's nice to see Google is finding ways to include everyone.
Maybe that is not a bad idea. I found I was waving my arms around and getting much more animated when I tried it - and I have hearing. It also seems like you have to have a different behavior than you do in a normal conversation. Could have been my equipment, but you can't talk in little quips - when you have the floor it is better to say several sentences to get your point out.
have been in a couple Deaf hangouts so far. consensus is that folks don't want motion detection as the solution.. people move around, stuff in the background moves, etc.
D Boyd
I had thought that background movement would be like background sounds in that one would have to try to minimize them. I seems that without sound of motion activation, it would have to be done by a key press or area click.

I hope there will be something that will work eventually for this. I know that a deaf ASL instructor that I had, loved the idea of using technology to communicate with others who were in a different location. Back then it was more about, "chatting", but video seems that it would be a more natural way to communicate.
Off topic, and maybe people here already know this, but I just came across this interesting story about how sign language my have saved the nation of Ukraine:
I sent a Tweet to @Deafmom, Karen Putz. If she's interested, I'll send her an invite and direct her to your stream. If she then gets a bunch of invites, then she can probably recruit more people to help.
+Rob Gordon - interesting that the story is getting replay now, it's actually quite old:

And +Chee Chew, count me in as another sign language user (hard of hearing, Gallaudet grad) who would be delighted to help with the project.
I work as a professional sign language interpreter and I am thrilled that google+ is working towards making hangouts better (for the benefit of the Deaf community, as well as its hearing users). I would love to be invited to test the hangout feature with other sign language users.
You'll want to get in touch with Christian Vogler - he's the Director of Technology Access Program at Gallaudet Univ. and has done research on stuff like this. He would be a tremendous resource for you guys at Google. In fact, he's already here on Google+ . . .
- Chee, I was told by my friend Tom Nakanishi to get in contact with you! I'm deaf and worked at city hall would love to be part of you hangout program please let me know what to do
+David W. Boles

if so, i'm glad you find that there is nothing to fix. I have joined the hangouts from multiple Deafies hangouts and i'm learning that there's actually more to fix than i thought. i'll let actual Deaf users speak for themselves. below are a few threads. again, if hangouts serve you just fine, i'm thrilled. for those below, i'll continue to iterate.

for those interested so far a few lessons we've learned:

1) although you can "grab the mic" by doing the "woo" or other noise, since you aren't continually speaking, the mic is lost extremely quickly by any amount of background noise from someone else, or typing in the chat field (see #6). the main screen flickers back and forth like crazy. the experience is better if everyone mutes. but then you can't grab the mic.
2) in a group of >5, it's more common to have multiple signing conversations simultaneously between multiple people. it looks like people are squinting at the thumbnails in these Deaf hangouts more than the main screen... which is unlike vocal conversations.
3) because of #2, peoples eyes are much further away from the camera than in vocal conversations, so everyone looks like they're looking away.
4) you don't know when you have the floor. there's no visual cue. so it's more common to have 2 people try to sign at the same time and not realize they're signing over each other
5) in hearing conversations, we prioritize audio at the sacrifice of video when necessary. in these hangouts, we need to prioritize framerate.
6) using the chat window is often more prevalent than hearing conversations. but that takes eyes away from the signing. so people miss what's said. really not sure what to do about this.

there's more, but these are some of my biggest ones. for all who have dogfooded, and sent feedback, thank you. if i've misunderstood some of the feedback i've heard so far, please correct me.

as you likely know, i cannot comment on future plans. our top priority right now is making sure the service scales as we grow the overall user base. but we will mesh these into our overall priorities and see what we can do...

What if you used Pranav Mistry's ideas on a wearable gestural interface to identify who is signing via a colored finger band or even a reflective wristband.

Similar to facial recognition software you could build it into the video software to recognize the movement of the hands to switch the video feed.

You could have a particular sign let's just say it is the index finger touching the thumb 3 times to indicate that someone else wants to take the mic.

Person A is signing, their video feed is displayed, they sign for example 10 seconds then Person B signs that they want to butt in, their image is flashed for half a second allowing Person A to finish their statement and then sign off(like a Roger beep if you have ever used a 2 way radio) the Roger sign could for example be the pinkie touching the thumb 2 times. Then Person B signs again that they want to talk and the consecutive combination of the Roger sign and the Butt in sign switches the video to Person B.

Also think of the behavior we exhibit when we are using Gchat and you type a message and then you see that the other person is "writing a message" you then wait for that person to finish typing and send the message before sending your own message back.

Same sort of idea where people would learn the rules and nuances and etiquette for having a group conversation.

I sign as well (ASL) and would love to participate! Not fluent, but definitely conversant; I also have education and experience in usability and learning technologies as well as over a decade in teaching students who are deaf or hard of hearing, so I would love to participate and provide ideas and feedback!
Chee Chew....what if there was a choice to "spread" the users in the hangout visually, rather than having one dominant view and a bunch of thumbnails? Think "Brady Bunch" here, and it could go full screen. Perhaps there could be a client-side feature where a user could personally expand the view of one in particular, but other than that, all users would be visible via the "spread" feature.

I noticed something today when I was inviting my friends to join that I believe should be corrected. There is no approve option when sending invites to friends. I noticed that as soon as I sent out an invite, my friends are added to my circle before they even become members of G+.

Just something I noticed.
I am not deaf, but I was thinking, the current setup for Hangouts using volume level as the determining factor of the center video channel (the presenter if you will) could be adapted to the deaf community by clapping next to the microphone to assert the presenters position. I am assuming that in a ASL hangout, there would only be background noise (a noise level indicator would have to be set to not video switch from person to person when no noise of a certain level is present). This is a work-around that could be employed for now, till they come up with ASL text translation by video sampling every 10 frames of the presenter and image compare them to a ASL database?

Just a few thoughts
Darn!!! i would loved to participate in this hangout only if my laptop have a webcamera! :(
are you still looking for people to participate in this?
Hello Chee Chew - for those of us with a hearing loss the Hangout option is outstanding! It will allow us to 'sign' with each other and will also allow us to exchange typed messages with both hearing and deaf family members and friends. THANK YOU for this great option. Now, I must figure out how to 'use it.' Smile. Lyn
Can you please explain how I can 'limit' the people who can contact me via Hangout? Is there a way (I hope) to limit the number of people who can 'find me' on Hangout?
Chee Chew - you said: "if you sign and are yourself deaf or are friend/family to someone who is, and you're willing to help... let's get your signing friends & family into g+. send me a private post letting me know." I am totally ignorant about how to use your site - please tell me how to send you a 'private' email?
nice work. btw, I'm thinking if your team is interested to incorparate language learning into google+interface?
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