iSign – Review

On January 10, 2009

App Type: Uncategorized

iSign – Review

Our rating:

By: Aaron Basil

Version #: Version 1.00

Date Released: 2008-08-28


Price: 7.99

User Rating:

Back in university, I had a professor who I had the pleasant opportunity to be close friends with. A former member of the clergy, he was soft-spoken and extremely generous. He liked to travel, watched The Matrix a thousand times, and enjoyed thin-crust pizza. I also learned that he knew a good deal of sign language and, apart from his post in the engineering faculty, was also part of the college of education, teaching basic sign language to students majoring in special education. Being the curious guy that I was, I asked if he could teach me some signs. Just the easy yet useful ones, I suggested, like "Hello," "Goodbye," and "Can I have your number?" But he had something different in mind. Faster than I could sign "No, I don’t think this is a good idea," I was sitting in his class learning how to sign the alphabet. But it turned out to be a good idea, after all. Just two weeks into the course, I found myself drawn to the unique culture of the deaf, making new friends in the community and communicating with them through their wonderful language. Sign language never left me.

No more than ten relevant results came up when I searched for "ASL," short for American Sign Language, in the App Store. One of these was iSign. Being the first of its kind that I got to try, I have to say iSign exceeded my expectations of how a sign language app could be done.

In essence, the app is a compendium of animations of a trio of 3D characters taking turns in signing different words and phrases. What’s great about the animations is that various angles of view are used so as to clearly show which way the hands should be going. It’s also good to see that the developer considered the facial expressions of the characters since these play an important role in effectively expressing one’s meaning.

Upon opening the app, you are welcomed by a character holding up the sign for "I love you." From there you can browse alphabetically, choose among numerous categories or do a search. Tap on a word or phrase to see the animation. Tap on the character to repeat the animation, on the plus/minus icon to add to/remove from Favorites, or on the back arrow to return to the previous list. Depending on the type of list you’re currently viewing, you can tap on the upper right corner of the screen to take a quiz on all signs, your favorites, or an entire category. Note that perhaps due to its hefty size, there can be a little lag when performing some actions or viewing the animations, the effect of which is very, very passable.

Great or poor, any app that brings sign language, an integral part of a unique community, to our favorite device deserves to be lauded, in my opinion. I am then particularly happy to report that iSign belongs to the former description.

Quick Take

Value: I’m doing the sign for H and raising it.
Would I Buy Again: My hand is nodding.
Learning Curve: My hand is shaped like an O.
Who is it for: ASL students and teachers, and people who want to learn a new and unique language.
What I Like: The various vantage points and varied facial expressions.
What I Don’t: Minimum lag.

Final Statement: How do you sign, "Two thumbs up"?

Read the Developer's Notes:
iSign is an ANIMATED phrase book of basic sign language gestures. Each of the 134 gestures is modeled with a 3D character and completely animated. The vantage point for each sign was chosen so that the user can see the details of the hand positions.I chose a diverse range of basic signs in areas such as; feelings, things around the house, numbers, colors, shapes, school, sports, etc.If you have feedback, problems, or suggestions for this application, please contact me directly. I appreciate your taking the time to look at this application.

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