A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

Various personal interests and public info, gesture, signs, language, social robotics, healthcare, innovation, music, publications, etc.

Search results: "baby sign"

Baby Sign Mini Dictionary Flash

Here is a wonderful flash animation from Babystrology, featuring a signing baby:

Lord knows, I am not the world’s biggest fan of baby signing, but this is positively funny. I hope the creators keep treating baby sign with the same sense of humor. It is far too important a subject to ever talk seriously about.

*Another nice example of using flash to present sign language online: Avon and Somerset Police.
*Another nice example of animated kids signing: XV Congreso Mundial de la WFD.

Suspicious Baby Sign Footage

I put together a playlist with YouTube movies with babies showing off their signs. Or should I say, mommies showing off their babies? Or their babies’ signs?

The first two videos are posted by a user called SmartHandCA, and constitute the most convincing but at the same time most suspect material. Why is there no real user name?

I know there are companies out there trying to make money by convincing people they should teach their babies to sign. They have everyone claiming it will boost their (language) development, succes in this life, the hereafter and then some.

Now, I am not saying it is definitely the case, merely raising a bit of doubt, but the baby in question may in fact be the child of Deaf parents, or older than the stated 12 months. This is the internet after all. The rest of the babies are all older, already talking as well or just signing ‘more’ or requesting nursing. If my distrust is unfounded then I must admit it is a neat example of a small baby picking up good vocabulary skills for his age.

All in all, it is not very funny to watch, it even got on my nerves after a bit. And, apart from the magical baby from SmartHandsCA, it seems to confirm that ‘more’ and ‘milk’ are the only frequently used signs (see my prior posts on babies signing ‘more milk’, and the fascination with nipples we share with certain apes). But perhaps I am just too biased and skeptical to see the revolution taking place in front of my eyes.

My kids are getting a bit older now, with a daughter of five and a boy of three (but a next one coming up soon). They do not seem to suffer from a lack of baby signing, which I tried half-heartedly but gave up on due to low ROI. I do shout at them a lot, and even throw books if I feel their vocabulary development is getting behind. It doesn’t seem to matter. My daughter’s most treasured words are those she picks up from her friends at school. Not always music to my ears, I must say.

Guest Lecture about Designing for the Deaf

Wednesday, May 21, 14.00h, room U, Faculty of Industrial Design, TU Delft.

“Deaf people can do anything, except hear.” I. King Jordan


Deaf Culture and Nederlandse Gebarentaal (NGT)
Corpus NGT (Johan)
Erkenning NGT
Onno’s Columns Woord en Gebaar

Some Products/Technology for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People:
Harris Communication (basicsbabywatch – vibrawatch)
AnnieS winkel mobiele teksttelefonie op BlackBerry

Suspicious promises of technology
The iCommunicator
Sign Synthesis

Flash and Sign Language Videos
MobileSign: Good participation by Deaf Community


Not unexpected yet ever so sad: Baby signing is taking an ever more commercial direction with all sorts of commercial crap coming out. The initial research underlying the whole phenomenon was weak to start with. Now it’s been misrepresented so much that it’s becoming just a load of crap.

This ‘baby’ can now nag you about an ice cream in two languages (source)

I see for example the stuff from signing4babies (clicking this link will not earn me anything) popping up in the AdSense ads in the sidebar. I find AdSense an interesting monitor of online commercial activities related to my topics, but do not recommend the sites per se. Signing4babies is under scrutiny but appears not to be doing anything wrong. But the claims about signing babies they make, such as a boost in IQ, are ridiculous and not validated in the sense of cause-and-effect by the research at all.

My Baby Just Cares .. for Milk

Hotter than hot with US Parents today: teach your nine month old baby a few signs instead of just waiting a couple of months for his words to start. Why? Well, obviously to give him an advantage. How so? According to a Californian mix of commercial and academic experts, there are many positive effects.

Does a parental investment in baby sign have the highest return?

Or would you be better of with music and rhyme sessions?

So what do babies sign? Guess what? By far the most used signs are More and Milk. A former colleague of mine from the UK mentioned had an anecdote about a signing baby: Whatever the problem was, be it hunger, thirst, a dirty diaper, etc, the baby would inevitable sign ‘milk’. Our mother’s breast, a cure for all ailments, eh?

To be honest, I tried it with my first child but my limited investment had no visible return. My youngest was spared the exercise, apart from the regular attempts at using gestures such as waving goodbye. And as I gain parental experience an approach of reactive rather than pro-active stimulation seems to me to yield the most profitable ROI anyway. It is certainly less demanding and has many other positive effects on me.

Evolution of Nipple Fascination

To what extent are we related to gorillas? Well I do not know, but we do seem to share a fascination with nipples. A very common request of Koko the signing gorilla is to ‘see some nipple’. A very common request of signing babies (around 9 months) is for ‘Milk’, which can be nipple or bottle. Phylogeny and ontogeny meet once again? The gesture people in Chicago say gesture can be a window into our minds. And what is on our minds?

Wish you were here? (source Wikipedia)

Paro, the Mental Commitment Robot

Paro, a present for some Dutch elderly people (source)

In the local Dutch news I read that another Paro, a robot baby seal, had reached our shores. More specifically, a Paro seal entered the homes and hearts of the good people of verpleeghuis Van Wijckerslooth in Oegstgeest.

It is altogether fitting that Paro has come to Oegstgeest. Oegstgeest is a small and very old town near the coast that rose to fame as the setting of the novel ‘Return to Oegstgeest’ by Jan Wolkers. In the novel Wolkers writes a lot about his love for animals, both the cuddly ones and the less cuddly ones. It makes me wonder what Wolkers, may he rest in peace, would have had to say about Paro…

“Tsja, het is natuurlijk van de gekke dat je 4000 euro gaat betalen voor zo’n in elkaar geflanst stuk mechaniek terwijl je maar de tuin in hoeft te lopen voor de meest leuke beestjes. Maar ik snap het wel hoor. De mensen willen gewoon vertroeteld worden en vertroetelen zonder vies te worden. Ze zouden maar wat graag een robot hebben die de hele dag zijn hygiënisch schone vingertje zachtjes rondpoert in hun kont of hun kut zonder dat ze ervoor op hoeven te staan.”

There is a good deal of thinking behind Paro. For example, the creators at AIST chose the form of a baby harp seal, and not of a cat or dog, because people will not compare Paro to their experience with a real seal (since they probably will not have had a real experience with a live baby seal). Robot cats tend to be perceived as less fun and less cuddly than real cats. I know from personal experience that many people, especially kids, are quite fond of baby seals. We once went to Pieterburen, home of the world’s foremost Seal Rehabilitation and Research Centre. Even though the kids were not allowed to touch any real baby seals they came to love them just by looking at those big eyes and that innocent appearance. And now, with Paro, you can actually touch and even cuddle them without smelling fishy for a week. I guess all signs are ‘go’ for entering a loving ‘mental commitment’, which is at least what Paro is intended for own homepage

“Mental Commitment Robots” are developed to interact with human beings and to make them feel emotional attachment to the robots. Rather than using objective measures, these robots trigger more subjective evaluations, evoking psychological impressions such as “cuteness” and comfort. Mental Commitment Robots are designed to provide 3 types of effects: psychological, such as relaxation and motivation, physiological, such as improvement in vital signs, and social effects such as instigating communication among inpatients and caregivers.

Rather grand claims for a robot that hardly does anything, but so far there have been reports in the news (e.g. here, here, or here) that it does have such positive effects to some extent. Yet, Paro only has a few basic sensors (light, touch, microphone, oriëntation/posture, and temperature). He can only open or close his eyes, move his head and paws a bit and ‘purr’ or ‘cry’. The solution, as always, comes from allowing the power of suggestion to work its magic. Minimalistic functionality leaves room to project feelings, moods, even personality to a robot.

Gestures of the World

At work an idea is brewing to collect and publish the Gestures of the World.
PW started it, some foreign students joined in and so did I.
There have of course been previous attempts, like ‘The NONVERBAL DICTIONARY of GESTURES, SIGNS & BODY LANGUAGE CUES‘ which is a lovely site made with a lot of care.

Example: The Lip Pout is described as a fairly universal sign of sulkiness
Other collections: www.lichaamstaal.nlwww.gesture.com

And then there was this half-baked idea to make a historical gesture classification.

Heather Brookes created ‘A Repertoire of South African Quotable Gestures‘ with quite interesting items, I must say. See If you can guess what this one means:

Gestures : The Do’s and Taboos of Body Language Around the World by Roger E. Axtell who wrote quite a bit on cross-cultural interaction.

Field Guide to Gestures: How to Identify and Interpret Virtually Every Gesture Known to Man

If you want a careful analysis, nothing beats Adam Kendon’s 2004 book ‘Gesture: Visible Action as Utterance

Morris, D., Collett, P., Marsh, P., & O’Shaughnessy, M. (1979). Gestures: Their Origins and Distribution. London: Jonathan Cape

Other collections: WikipediaAdam Kendon’s Bibliography

Online Sign Language Dictionaries: ListNGTASL (alt more) – VGTDGS (wiki) – IndianLSF

HandSpeak covers ASL, BabySign, other gestures, facial expressions and cultural and artistic aspects. Sadly, it is a commercial site that charges for access. It does show samples like Kumari in Nepalese Sign Language or some of the ASL Lessons like Indexing.

Aeronautics Sign Language Dictionary
Avatar Animations?

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