This Software Company Pioneers Inclusive Digital Technology at the Asian Para Games

The virtual sign language interpreter—made for individuals with hearing impairments—is part of the company’s effort to promote inclusiveness during the Asian Para Games.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1.5 billion people live with hearing loss. That number is nearly 20% of the global population. From an economic standpoint, this can prove to be detrimental if left unaddressed, as “unaddressed hearing loss costs the global economy $980 billion (around PHP 54.95 trillion) annually due to health sector costs excluding the cost of hearing devices, costs of educational support, loss of productivity and societal costs.

Thus, to foster inclusivity at the Asian Para Games—held between October 22 and 28—Alibaba Cloud introduced its digital avatar, Xiaomo. Alibaba Cloud is the digital technology and intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group. 

Xiaomo’s purpose is to serve as a sign language interpreter for individuals with hearing impairments.

“Through the integration of natural language processing, computer vision, and machine learning technologies, we have developed a sign language translation system,” says Matt Zhang, the Algorithm Engineer at Alibaba Cloud. “This innovation aims to make the Asian Para Games more inclusive and accessible to those with hearing loss.”

How Alibaba Cloud’s Xiaomo Works

Users can encounter Xiaomo when using the payment platform Alipay as it has been integrated as a mini app. This app supports two-way translation between sign language and Chinese spoken language.

Users can then input voice messages, which Xiaomo will then translate into sign language for hearing-impaired individuals. Moreover, Xiaomo can also interpret sign language into spoken language. 

Xiaomo is also being incorporated into the news channel of the Asian Para Games so that more people can understand the announcements related to the games. It also has the ability to assist participants of the Asian Para Games with hearing impairments in interacting with volunteers. 

2022 Asian Para Games

The 2022 Asian Para Games took place from October 22 to 28 in Hangzhou, China. This multi-sport event features athletes with disabilities. This year’s Para Games featured 501 gold medal events. 141 of these events were under athletics, which had the most number of events.

China came out with the most number of medals won with 214 gold medals, 167 silver medals, and 140 bronze medals. Iran came in second place while Japan landed in third.

Prioritizing Inclusivity 

Alibaba Group’s launch of Xiaomo is an example worth emulating by other companies. Through this move, the company has been able to foster inclusivity for persons with disabilities (PWDs) during the Asian Games and Asian Para Games. 

PWDs are part of the most vulnerable members of society, and businesses play a crucial role in empowering them. This can be done through a variety of ways, such as providing more employment opportunities for them.  

Businesses can also cater to their needs by providing ramps for easier mobility, displaying signages in braille, and training staff members in sign language.