by Patrick Meyer - Group AI Senior Architect – IPA Offering Manager
| minute read

In an era where technology is rapidly transforming our world, ensuring that these advancements promote inclusivity is crucial. Recognizing this need, IVèS, Sopra Steria, and IBM have collaborated to create IRIS, the world's first conversational assistant for the deaf and hard of hearing. This innovative "signbot" leverages the power of AI to enable digital sign language communication, marking a significant milestone in the realm of accessibility.

Sopra Steria is an IT services company which offers a comprehensive suite of consulting and digital services to help customers undergo digital transformations. This includes a "digital innovation factory" to address evolving needs in governance, innovation, and various operational aspects. Sopra Steria's extensive service portfolio also encompasses artificial intelligence, technology services, system integration, business process management, infrastructure management, and cybersecurity.

The company now wants to combine its expertise in developing intelligent conversational agents with AI technology to deliver a powerful tool that enables seamless interaction between users and digital systems. For the same, it has initiated the IRIS Inclusive Sign Language Project, a collaborative effort involving Sopra Steria, IBM and IVèS.

The creation of IRIS represents a fusion of expertise from three leading tech players. IVèS, a European leader in Deaf accessibility, has harnessed its deep knowledge of sign detection and recognition to develop this pioneering technology. Sopra Steria, a major player in European tech, has integrated its Alive Intelligence (SSAI) solution with IBM’s advanced Watson Assistant technology. Together, these contributions form the backbone of IRIS, a tool designed to break down communication barriers and promote inclusion.

IRIS is not just any conversational assistant; it is a sophisticated AI system capable of understanding and responding in multiple sign languages, including French Sign Language (LSF), Quebec Sign Language (LSQ), American Sign Language (ASL), and Tunisian Sign Language (LST). This functionality is achieved through the integration of several advanced technologies.

This project aims to bridge communication barriers for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community through the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and sign language recognition technology.  At its core, IRIS is an AI-powered chatbot designed to understand and respond to sign language inputs in real time. This innovative solution enhances accessibility and empowers individuals who prefer to communicate using sign language.

Key Features of the IRIS Project:

  1. Real-time Sign Language Communication: IRIS employs advanced AI algorithms to accurately recognize and interpret sign language gestures. By integrating with websites and applications, the IRIS chatbot facilitates seamless communication for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, enabling them to access online services and engage in virtual interactions.
  2. Accessibility Across Platforms: IRIS is versatile and adaptable, with plans to integrate the technology into various communication platforms beyond web interfaces. From websites to video conferencing tools like Teams, IRIS aims to provide universal access to sign language interpretation, fostering inclusive communication in diverse settings.
  3. Multi-Language Support: While initially tailored for French Sign Language, IRIS has been adapted to other sign languages, including American Sign Language, Tunisian Sign Language and Quebec Sign Language. The project envisions expanding language support to accommodate the linguistic diversity of sign language users worldwide.
  4. Future Developments: The IRIS team is committed to continuous research and development, with plans to enhance the technology through features such as generative AI for automatic sign language generation and improved integration with existing communication platforms.


Application and Impact of the IRIS project to the customers/end-users

The practical applications of IRIS can be its deployment on various platforms, from giant fixed screens and mobile tablets to web browsers, making it accessible in a wide range of settings. This versatility ensures that IRIS can facilitate communication in numerous environments, whether in public spaces, workplaces, or online platforms. Websites such as IVèS, Elioz, Orange, and Mutuelle Intégrance have also integrated the IRIS avatar, demonstrating its broad applicability and the growing recognition of its potential.

The IRIS project holds significant implications, offering tangible benefits to both deaf and hearing communities. By eliminating communication barriers, IRIS promotes inclusivity and equal access to information and services, leading to:

  1. Empowerment of Deaf Individuals: IRIS enables deaf individuals to Converse with user assist agent allowing them greater self-sufficiency and access to essential services such as online banking, education, and healthcare.
  2. Enhanced User Experience: By integrating IRIS into their platforms, businesses and organizations enhance the user experience for deaf and hard-of-hearing customers, demonstrating their commitment to accessibility and inclusivity.
  3. Facilitation of Virtual Communication: In an era dominated by virtual communication, IRIS facilitates seamless participation in virtual meetings for deaf individuals, ensuring their full engagement and contribution to discussions.
  4. Driving Social Change: Beyond its practical applications, the IRIS project fosters broader social change by raising awareness and understanding of the needs of the deaf community. By championing inclusive technology, IRIS inspires positive attitudes towards disability and accessibility.

The IRIS signbot is an example of how advanced technology can be applied to solve real-world problems. The collaborative efforts of IVèS, Sopra Steria, and IBM have resulted in a tool that not only bridges communication gaps to serve the cause of inclusivity, offering a glimpse into a future where technology serves to unite rather than divide.

The IRIS project holds the potential to strengthen Sopra Steria's position in the conversational AI market. By incorporating IRIS's sign language recognition technology, Sopra Steria's conversational AI solutions could make the Chatbot more inclusive and user-friendly. This could help Sopra Steria in Accessible AI and open doors to a new market segment focused on accessibility, potentially leading to brand reputation uplift and market growth.

The IRIS project leverages advancements in artificial intelligence and sign language recognition. As development progresses, its influence on communication accessibility is anticipated to exhibit significant growth. This could potentially lead to the reduction of communication barriers and facilitate a more inclusive environment where information exchange is optimized for all users.

Analyst Quote: According to Akash Dicholkar, Analyst at Quadrant Knowledge Solutions “Sopra Steria, a major European IT services company, is leading the IRIS Inclusive Sign Language Project, a collaboration that tackles communication barriers for the deaf and hard of hearing. The development of IRIS signifies a leap in accessibility technology, showcasing how advanced AI and sign language recognition can profoundly enhance communication for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. This collaboration between IVèS, Sopra Steria, and IBM underscores the potential of integrating technologies to address real-world challenges. IRIS’s seamless interaction across multiple platforms facilitates a rich user experience and promotes greater inclusivity and accessibility. This initiative is a testament to the transformative impact of AI, fostering a more inclusive society and setting a new benchmark for technological innovation in accessibility solutions.”

Vendor Quote: According to Patrick Meyer, AI Expert at Sopra Steria, "Our mission is to guide our customers, partners and employees towards bold choices to build a positive future by putting artificial intelligence at the service of people. In particular, we provide end-to-end services and solutions to automate support and contact centre management processes to improve user experience and business performance."






















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