National College of Art and Design, DublinIreland
2023 People’s Choice Award
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Voting closes at 23:59 EST (EST time: UTC-5) on 5 May 2023.


Concept / Student


Katie O'Brien


Have you ever felt isolated from a conversation?

90% of Deaf children are born to hearing parents but only 42% of these families use sign language in the home. I worked alongside members of the Deaf Community, who acknowledged that this language barrier causes feelings of disconnection, isolation and frustration for them in family life, and in wider society.

Beppi is a contemporary visual communication device, designed for the members of the Deaf Community.

The device uses smart technology to translate group discussions in real-time, using simplified text and LED adaptation. Beppi’s LED lights and digital display continuously alternate colour during the conversation in accordance with each speaker’s voice, thus allowing the user to instantly identify who is speaking, while observing the conversation cues on screen.

Beppi translates and displays keywords from sentences to text on screen as opposed to the entire conversation being said. While user testing, translation to keywords proved to have a strong positive effect on the members of the Deaf Communities level of social interaction and engagement during group discussions. Keywords allow the user to quickly glance at the display and look back up to engage with others in conversation, while providing them with information on the topics of discussion.

Beppi increases the Deaf Communities involvement in conversations, starting in the home, and improves seamless social connectivity, alleviating the reliance on the traditional pen and paper.

Project Description

This project addresses the disconnect between the Deaf Community and the hearing during verbal discussions.

My design process was led by extensive interviewing, user testing, co-creation and feedback sessions with members of the Deaf Community in Ireland, as well as their family members, colleagues and experts in the field.

A key insight was found in the early stages of interviews. Each person informed me how they try to avoid verbal group discussions as much as possible because they cannot keep up with multiple speakers and are always last to find out anything being said. This has left many feeling embarrassed during social gatherings and negatively impacted social connectivity.

In addition to this, due to the recent pandemic, majority of the Deaf Community involved in this project have found the use age of masks to be a massive disruption in day-to-day life as it takes away their aid of lipreading in environments such as the workplace.

I found an opportunity in the creation of an interactive device that would aid in translating verbal discussion discretely with the aim to improve Deaf awareness and inclusivity both in and out of the home.

There are currently very few to no devices dedicated to improving and empowering the social involvement of Deaf members in verbal group conversations. Existing methods include reading, writing, lipreading and mobile transcribe apps. Beppi is a favourable solution as it reduces paper wastage from written conversation, fatigue from intense lip reading and social exclusion. A high percentage of the Deaf Community are diagnosed with learning difficulties such as dyslexia. This has a huge effect on their understanding of written grammar. Due to the fact that existing transcribe apps translate every word being said, the Deaf find it difficult to follow the conversation which is why Beppi uniquely translates conversations to keywords using Ai instead. As Beppi is its own stand-alone designated device for the Deaf, it also does not require them to feel excluded on their phone during social gatherings like mobile transcription apps do.

The final product solution was informed by continuous prototyping. Every element and feature was tested by the user in order to meet their needs and then brought for further development until I eventually reached Beppi.

Final feedback proved the positive impact which this product solution would have during verbal discussions. One instance in particular was with a mixed family of Deaf parents and hearing children. The parents explained to me that they feel left out of their children’s verbal discussions and were currently worried about an upcoming family wedding where there was to be no sign language interpreter. They had a lot of hope in their daughter to translate the event for them using sign language, but she refused as she felt too embarrassed. They were very excited about the concept of Beppi as they believed it would give them a great opportunity to understand and enjoy everything during family events and discussions, without putting constant reliance on their children for translation.


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