Sign language created by artificial intelligence is to be introduced for announcements at Huddersfield Railway Station from today (Friday December 2).

The pioneering system will help deaf people and those with hearing problems see timetable changes, updates and cancellations signed on a screen on the platform.

It uses a mix of pre-recorded videos and AI software to provide translated messages in British Sign Language (BSL) for travel updates based on any live changes. 

The system, developed by Signapse AI, a University of Surrey spin-out company, is already on trial at Euston station and some UK airports. There are also planned services for SouthWestern Rail, LNER and TransPennine Express.

The system launches at Huddersfield Station today and at other UK locations in the next few weeks.

Prof Richard Bowden, who leads the project at the university, said: “There are just not enough sign language interpreters available to address accessibility needs.

“We will never replace high quality human interpretation but AI can help address that gap.

“It’s about using AI to provide real-time service announcements in areas where there is currently no interpretation. Transport and retail are great examples.

“When situations change rapidly, like on train platforms, details will disappear off the boards.

“Stations use audio tannoys to announce changes but for deaf passengers, this can leave them confused when people rush off and they may find it hard to find the correct information.

“Our first product will act as a sign language tannoy, able to update deaf passengers through an information screen in BSL with AI software aiding the real-time updates.”

Signapse AI recently won Start-up of the Year at the 2022 Surrey Business Awards and Huddersfield Station will be their first full product launch.

Ben Saunders, chief technical officer at Signapse AI, said: “I can’t explain how happy I am to see research become a reality and start helping people.

“We still have a long way to go to fully immerse our technology in sign language AI but this should be a reliable start.

“We are one step further in our journey to make our society more accessible and close the gap of not enough interpreters while putting people at the forefront of AI technology we are developing.”