Boston UniversityAmerican Sign Language Lingustic Research Project

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Currently a new implementation of SignStream (version 3) is in progress.

This is an Open Source effort, developed using IBM's Common Public License.

The new version includes the following features:

Written in Java to support Windows and Mac OS X and later, SignStream 3 is also designed to support Quicktime or the Java Media Framework (JMF) for media playback, so as to allow easy porting to Linux and other Java-enabled UNIX platforms.

Graphical and numeric annotations are supported to allow more intuitive representation of specific types of information. Design efforts are particularly focused on supporting graphical palettes of hand shapes, although users will be able to create their own graphical data to support any type of information.

Data are centralized and data association is made more flexible to allow for several new or improved areas of functionality:

    • Coding schemes—the formal descriptors constraining annotations within a specific domain or organization—are handled independently of transcripts. This simplifies standardization of annotations, while still allowing such schemes to evolve with the work of individual researchers. Transcribers can choose to build on an existing scheme, such as the default ASL scheme included with the program, or to develop their own schemes to suit their own needs.
    • Transcripts can be stored in large databases. Searches can be carried out across a wide set of annotations. The search functionality is similar to that of the current version; however, searching is no longer restricted to one database file at a time.
    • Transcripts can also be imported/exported using a simple XML format, making it simpler to share data with other XML-aware applications or to write custom applications for data analysis.
    • In the current version, video and audio files must be directly referenced by the transcripts, making it difficult to move these files between different media or to substitute alternate files (e.g., using different codecs or time segments). SignStream 3 adds a level of abstraction called Asset Packaging to address these and other media management concerns. This abstraction allows for globally unique assets, making possible distribution of transcripts, including in printed publications, without including the original video or other source data, while providing a simple way for users to obtain the source files separately as needed, on CD, DVD, or via the Web.
    • Hierarchical relationships among fields are supported. For example a Hand Shape field could have children fields for Selected Fingers, Aperture, etc.
    • Several efforts to simplify data entry will be added, including single-click drop-down menus for sets of known values, custom entry widgets for specific data types or scheme fields, and a user-defined gloss dictionary for entering recurring sets of annotations.

Project History

Recent development (2000- )

has been supported by NSF grant IIS-9912573, CNS-04279883, and HCC-0705749.

SignStream version 3

Java implementation Iryna Zhuravlova
(replaced Jason Boyd as of spring 2004)

Program design,
and testing

Iryna Zhuravlova
Robert G. Lee
Joan Nash

Carol Neidle

Research assistants: Robert G. Lee, Mike Schlang, Joan Nash.

Design and prototyping of the coding scheme module were aided by the work of George Kierstein.

We are grateful to David Greenfield for assistance with release of the SignStream version 2.2.*

Development of the SignStream application (1995-2000)*

was supported by NSF grant IIS-9528985
(C. Neidle, PI; D. MacLaughlin, Postdoctoral Fellow; B. Bahan, Consultant; R.G. Lee, Research Asst.).

Development of capabilities for multiple synchronized video files and audio files (1999-2000)*

was funded by NSF grant EIA-9809340
(C. Neidle, PI; S. Sclaroff, co-PI; D. MacLaughlin, Consultant).

Development of the SignStream prototype (1994-1995)*

was made possible by NSF grant SBR-941056
(C. Neidle, PI; J. Kegl, co-PI; B. Bahan, co-Investigator; D. MacLaughlin, Research Asst.).

* Programming for versions 1 and 2 of SignStream was carried out by David Greenfield in the Department of Humanities Resources at Dartmouth College (Otmar Foelsche, Director).

Previous versions of the Program

SignStream™ Version 2.0. 2000

System requirements: Mac OS (system 8.0 or later; SignStream requires QuickTime™ version 3.0.2 or later).

SignStream™ Version 1.5. 1999

System requirements: Mac OS (system 7.1 or later; SignStream requires QuickTime™ version 2.1 or later).


The following people have been involved in various ways in the design and development of SignStream over the years:

Boston University:
Carol Neidle
Iryna Zhuravlova
Dawn MacLaughlin
Robert G. Lee
Stan Sclaroff

Dartmouth College:
Otmar Foelsche
David Greenfield
(principal programmer
for SignStream 2)

Gallaudet University:
Benjamin Bahan

Rutgers University:
Judy Kegl

SignStream logo design by Mr. Bill
(the late Bill Henneman)

Neidle, MacLaughlin, and Lee

Neidle, MacLaughlin, and Lee