Fingerspelling recognition in the wild with iterative visual attention

Sign language recognition is a challenging gesture sequence recognition problem, characterized by quick and highly coarticulated motion. In this paper we focus on recognition of fingerspelling sequences in American Sign Language (ASL) videos collected in the wild, mainly from YouTube and Deaf social media. Most previous work on sign language recognition has focused on controlled settings where the data is recorded in a studio environment and the number of signers is limited. Our work aims to address the challenges of real-life data, reducing the need for detection or segmentation modules commonly used in this domain. We propose an end-to-end model based on an iterative attention mechanism, without explicit hand detection or segmentation. Our approach dynamically focuses on increasingly high-resolution regions of interest. It outperforms prior work by a large margin. We also introduce a newly collected data set of crowdsourced annotations of fingerspelling in the wild, and show that performance can be further improved with this additional data set.

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