American Sign Language fingerspelling recognition in the wild

Bowen Shi, Aurora Martinez Del Rio, Jonathan Keane, Jonathan Michaux, Diane Brentari, Greg Shakhnarovich, Karen Livescu

We address the problem of American Sign Language fingerspelling recognition in the wild, using videos collected from websites. We introduce the largest data set available so far for the problem of fingerspelling recognition, and the first using naturally occurring video data. Using this data set, we present the first attempt to recognize fingerspelling sequences in this challenging setting. Unlike prior work, our video data is extremely challenging due to low frame rates and visual variability. To tackle the visual challenges, we train a special-purpose signing hand detector using a small subset of our data. Given the hand detector output, a sequence model decodes the hypothesized fingerspelled letter sequence. For the sequence model, we explore attention-based recurrent encoder-decoders and CTC-based approaches. As the first attempt at fingerspelling recognition in the wild, this work is intended to serve as a baseline for future work on sign language recognition in realistic conditions. We find that, as expected, letter error rates are much higher than in previous work on more controlled data, and we analyze the sources of error and effects of model variants.

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