Hip-Hop App Becomes a Life-changing Tool for the Deaf
#technology & innovation
small, Hip-Hop App Becomes a Life-changing Tool for the Deaf, Mateusz Mach, photo: Justyna Jazgarska, five_app1.jpg
Mateusz Mach, an eighteen-year-old from Lębork, Poland, has designed an ingenious mobile app that can make life easier for the deaf. Inspired by hip-hop culture and gestures, it allows users to create their own hand signs.
Mateusz Mach is an eighteen-year-old high school student form Lębork, Poland, and he can’t get enough of hip-hop. A while ago, his passion gave him an idea: he wanted to create an app offering communication via graphic hand signs similar to the gestures commonly used by rappers. The program was to feature familiar signals like ‘peace’ and ‘high five’, the latter being the inspiration for the new messenger’s name, Five App. Thanks to the success of a prior project started by Mateusz when he was just 15, a technology blog platform named Sagepark, he got funding for the development of his app. Five App premiered in May 2015 as an application for young people that looking for a fashionable and discreet way to exchange information. For example two friends can decide on single hand signal that will mean ‘let’s meet up at the cinema’. Meanwhile, unsuspecting adults will have no way of decyphering what their offspring is planning.
The app wasn’t an immediate success ‒ it didn’t catch on with its target group. However, not long after its premiere, Mateusz was contacted by a Five App user from the US, who noticed the application’s untapped potential. Apart from having a library of pre-set signs, the messenger also creates customised symbols. The American informed Mach that if the app had enough signs of the right kind, it could be employed to communicate in sign language and thus be of great use to the deaf. At that time it also turned out that deaf people in America were already using custom-made signs to communicate within Five App. These revelations were a game-changer. Mateusz thought things over and decided to take his app in an entirely new direction.
Mateusz explains that a considerable percentage of deaf individuals can’t read or write even simple text messages and are, to a large extent, excluded from modern electronic communication because of that. A special messenger application offering communication via graphic hand signs could therefore make life much easier for them, not only by enabling them to send messages to their family members but also by allowing them to contact various institutions like banks or clinics. Mateusz is currently working on making all these things possible. He has decided to make a new incarnation of Five App, which will be the first messenger intended for deaf people. He’s already received substantial funding for the development of this new version which is being jointly prepared with top sign language experts. It will feature a function that forms sign language sentences by creating a sequence of gestures. Also, the young Pole is looking to interest businesses in using his app for communicating with deaf clients. Five App is to debut on the American market with help from the United Nations. It is to appear on European markets at a later date. Just as Alexander Flemming unintentionally discovered penicillin, it was by chance that Mateusz Mach ended up creating an ingenious app that might change the lives of millions of deaf people for the better.
Author: Marek Kępa, February 2016