press release
Published: 12 September 2023

Google supports University of Surrey in boosting internet accessibility for deaf people

The University of Surrey is receiving US$1.5 million in grant funding and additional support from Google’s philanthropic arm,, in order to develop artificial intelligence (AI) research to pave the way for instant Sign Language translation. The project will translate key websites into Sign Language, boosting digital inclusion for the 600,000 deaf people in the US and UK for whom Sign Language is their first language.

Of the 7 million profoundly deaf people worldwide whose first language is sign language, 80% can’t properly comprehend the spoken languages in their country, because learning a language you cannot hear is exceptionally challenging.

Using generative AI, the University of Surrey and its spin-out company Signapse will automatically translate online and offline text into real-time, photo-realistic sign language videos, making quick translation affordable and easy to secure for deaf people.

Professor Richard Bowden, an expert in computer vision and machine learning at the University of Surrey, said:

“The lack of digital accessibility and Sign Language translators makes it difficult for deaf people to navigate everyday information and activities, including education, healthcare, employment, and transportation. Thanks to this funding from, we’ll work with Signapse to boost digital inclusion, with the benefits set to spread across the whole deaf community.”’s AI for the Global Goals Impact Challenge is part of Google’s company-wide commitment to help accelerate progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The University of Surrey is one of 15 organisations receiving support through the $25 million philanthropy challenge for projects that use AI to accelerate progress towards these goals. Out of many submitted proposals, 15 were selected for funding. Importantly, all of the projects will be open-sourced, so other organisations can build upon the work. More here.

James Manyika, Google’s SVP of Research, Technology & Society, said:

“Each of the 15 selected organizations share our vision for using AI to accelerate progress on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and each organization brings their own expertise to help move the needle. We are inspired by the possibilities they see for how AI can be harnessed to help people solve societal problems, and are excited about the collective impact they will have over the next three years.”

See the sign language translation.

The University of Surrey’s Institute for People-Centred AI combines over 30 years of technical excellence in the field of machine learning at the Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP) with multi-disciplinary research to answer the technical, ethical and governance questions that will enable the future of AI to be truly people-centred.’s funding contributes to The Future Says Surrey, the University’s ambitious global philanthropic campaign to raise £60 million in three years to help Surrey continue making positive impacts on society and confirm it as one of the UK’s leading research and educational institutions.

See about Surrey's MSc in Artificial Intelligence.

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