Mateusz Mach and Piotr Polański wanted to create an app to send jokey hand signs to each other. They created little animated figures that signed “I love you” or “I see you” and sent them to each other. They got 56 downloads and were about to give up when an occupational therapist named Cindy Chen asked them to modify the app for the deaf.
Ten thousand users and $150,000 in funding later they have created Five App, an app that the deaf and the hearing can use to send sign language messages to each other. Why sign language? Because it is a universal method for communication across the Internet and, with a bit of ingenuity, you can send a fun message to anyone who signs.
The app works with text messaging systems in iOS and Android and can also send animated messages over Facebook Messenger. The coolest thing? You can change the facial expressions of the little animate character to express anger, frustration, or joy.
You can also use to the system to communicate with a deaf person sitting right in front of you by passing signs back and forth. It’s not quite a universal sign translator – yet – but the team is working on other solutions that will truly expand the utility of the app.
This app went from silly gang sign transmitter to an actually usable language app and it’s currently in use with the biggest organization for the deaf in Poland, Migaj.pl. The team has plans to expand the messaging portion of the app so everyone can say “Hi! Want to grab a drink?” to anyone.