JAN 05, 2018 2:28 PM PST

You Can Send Animated Sign Language With This App

WRITTEN BY: Julia Travers

The 360 million people who are Deaf or hard of hearing now have access to a multi-media, animated sign language app called Five, thanks to CEO Mateusz Mach. When he invented the tool as a lifestyle app for playful usage among high school friends, he had no idea that he was about to change the lives of people all over the world.

Five app, credit: Five

Mach was 18 when he designed Five. It was developed with the help of a group of freelance coders and launched in 2015. He came up with the idea so that he and his friends could send each other images of hand signals amongst themselves -- he cites rap and hip-hop artists as an inspiration. He and his crew would use hand signs to communicate silly and funny messages as well as causal but useful information like how far away they were from each other.

People who were Deaf or hard of hearing discovered and used the app. They started to come to Mach, thanking him and explaining to him how Mateusz Mach, credit: Mateusz Mach on Twitterrevolutionary it was for their community, for which there was no means of messaging American Sign Language (ASL) at the time. Mach told Business Insider he learned that many – about 80 percent – of people in the Deaf community do not possess the notion of an internal “voice” and so may not take naturally to texting as a form of interpersonal communication. Psychology Professor Charles Fernyhough, who has studied and written about the history of “inner speech” and the voices in our heads, concurs; he says that while Deaf people do often experience inner dialogue, it tends to be a visual representation of someone signing rather than an auditory experience or "voice." People with some ability to hear or who became Deaf after hearing for a period of time may have a combination of  experiences when conversing in their own minds.

When Mach learned that his app could have a greater purpose and audience, he began working to secure funding in his home country of Poland. He "simply messaged almost every venture capital firm in Poland," traveled and won several startup competitions, and attracted a following on social media as an innovative young entrepreneur. By 2016, as a senior in high school, he had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and he then broadened his team to bring on gifted designers and ASL experts who could develop better features for the evolving app. He has been on three Forbes “30 Under 30” lists for Europe: “Social Entrepreneurs,” “Dorm Room Founders,” and “Youngest.”

“Our product is the collaborative effort of creators, developers, graphic designers and most importantly, Deaf people,” the Five website states. Users of Five can choose signs, facial expressions and text to communicate. The signs are linked together into an animation and can even be sent over Facebook.

Watch Five in action in the video below.

About the Author
  • Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher. She frequently covers science, tech, conservation and the arts. She enjoys solutions journalism. Find more of her work at jtravers.journoportfolio.com.
You May Also Like
MAR 11, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Deadly Cancer Cells Can Move in the Wrong Direction
MAR 11, 2021
Deadly Cancer Cells Can Move in the Wrong Direction
Cancer is most deadly when it metastasizes; when cells break away from a primary site of cancer and move through the bod ...
MAR 24, 2021
Technology
The Road To Faster Computing
MAR 24, 2021
The Road To Faster Computing
Research led by the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge has identified a material that could help tackle ...
MAR 23, 2021
Technology
Has COVD-19 Made Us Nicer To Machines?
MAR 23, 2021
Has COVD-19 Made Us Nicer To Machines?
Has COVID-19 made us nicer to machines? Research shows that individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have shown mor ...
JUN 28, 2021
Cardiology
The Electricity of a Beating Heart is Caught on Graphene Camera
JUN 28, 2021
The Electricity of a Beating Heart is Caught on Graphene Camera
When graphene was first developed, it was hailed as a revolutionary material but its potential uses seemed unclear to ma ...
JUL 16, 2021
Neuroscience
From Thought to Text: A Neural Interface can Type the Sentences You Think
JUL 16, 2021
From Thought to Text: A Neural Interface can Type the Sentences You Think
Researchers create neural interface to decode thought into text
JUL 21, 2021
Technology
Digital App Helps People Make Positive Eating-Habit Changes
JUL 21, 2021
Digital App Helps People Make Positive Eating-Habit Changes
We all have moments where the only thing that can comfort us is food, and a lot of it. However, such behavior can very q ...
Loading Comments...