Gallaudet University will host the first-ever CREST Fest June 14 through July 23, 2021. The purpose of this six-week virtual festival is to celebrate sign language technologies and advance equity and deaf representation in the field. Hosted by Gallaudet’s CREST Network, a National Science Foundation-funded initiative, CREST Fest is free to students, researchers, academics and developers throughout the world.

The inaugural CREST Fest is designed to provide a forum for learning and will feature several keynote presentations by prominent leaders from computer science, animation, accessible computing, and other related fields. Other offerings will include discussion forums and a CREST Ambassador program for deaf and hard of hearing high school and college students. Please visit CREST Fest for registration and event details.

CREST Fest will address many important issues and emerging technologies, including:

  • Accessibility in virtual reality (VR)
  • Three-dimensional (3D) modeling and animation of signing characters
  • Signing avatars
  • Automated sign language production
  • Ethics in sign language technology development

Sign language technologies include tools developed for sign language translation, sign language instruction, and sign language in virtual and augmented reality. The tools include emerging technologies such as virtual human avatars, gesture recognition, machine learning, computer vision, and wearable sensors.

“We are very excited to be hosting CREST Fest,” said Melissa Malzkuhn and Dr. Lorna Quandt, founders of the CREST Network. “This is the first event of its kind with a stellar lineup of guest presenters. We hope this will serve as a catalyst for greater equity and deaf representation in our field. A lot of research being done today in the sign language technology fields is being done without appropriate leadership from deaf people. Our hope is that CREST Fest and those supporting it can help to ensure a future where new technologies are designed and built with meaningful involvement from deaf sign language users.”

Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer and a member of the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees, will deliver the event’s featured keynote address. Additional keynote presenters include Myles de Bastion, CymaSpace; Dr. Richard Bowden, University of Surrey; and Dr. Julie Hochgesang, Dr. Raja Kushalnagar, and Jason Lamberton, all with Gallaudet University. CREST Fest also will feature a “Hot Topics in Sign Language and Technology” community forum featuring several distinguished panelists: Mohamed Alwazer, KinTrans LLC; Joaquim Amado, World Deaf Tech; Catherine Bentley, KinTrans LLC; Dr. Danielle Bragg, Microsoft; Dr. Joseph Hill, Rochester Institute of Technology; Alfred Sonnenstrahl, Deaf Seniors of America; and Dr. Christian Vogler, Gallaudet University.

The CREST Ambassador program is a virtual six-week program for deaf and hard of hearing high school and college students designed to jump-start their involvement in the field of sign language technologies. Eleven students from around the world have been selected to participate in the 2021 Ambassador program and will receive an “inside track” to special CREST Fest programming. They also will be paired with mentors to support their professional development within the field.

CREST (Cultivating Research and Equity in Sign-related Technology) Network is a global collaborative professional network dedicated to promoting deaf-led research and innovation for the advancement of emerging technologies related to sign language. Funded by the National Science Foundation and housed within Gallaudet University’s Center for Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2), CREST is focused on increasing the inclusion of deaf and hard of hearing students and researchers in the development of sign-related technologies to bring added benefits to those who use signed languages as a primary form of communication.

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