Sign-machine rebooted

Way back in 2008, I had a new baby daughter, and I’d just joined the Institute of Educational Technology, after a couple of rewarding years in the VLE team at The Open University (Learning and Teaching Solutions, LTS).

I can’t remember more context … Suffice to say, I came across some animated GIFs illustrating how to finger-spell using British Sign Language (BSL). Some sites I looked at are ian.barnsley and

I put together some PHP and Javascript code to use these GIF images to do finger-spelling on demand. You can see the result at As well as the core, there was a Javascript bookmarklet, and Greasemonkey user script.

I moved on to other projects, and the idea languished. To preserve the code, I put it into Bitbucket in 2011.

Press Sign to get started:

[ sign-machine requires Javascript. Is it disabled in your browser? ]

I’m happy to say that I’ve revived the sign-machine project on GitHub. Version 2.x is a complete re-write, without PHP, and with fresh Javascript. It uses the same animated GIF images, and currently supports British Sign Language.

It can be embedded on a site with just three lines of HTML — the snippet uses jQuery 2.2.4:

<div id="id-sign-machine"> Javascript is required. </div>

<script src="[email protected]/dist/jquery.min.js"></script>
<script src="[email protected]/src/sign-machine.js"></script>

There are more usage examples. You can also try with a sign parameter in the URL.

I’d love some feedback on this idea. Is it sane, and can you think of potential uses? Would you like to see it in your language? American/ French/ Swedish … Sign Language? Would you like it extended beyond finger-spelling?

Please feedback via the comments, to @nfreear on Twitter, and on Facebook.

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