I have two responses: as a certified Interpreter for the Deaf (though I haven’t done it professionally in about 8 years now), I think it’s a terrible idea!
Also, the story seems to be pretty overhyped for what the technology really can do. At most, it can transliterate a string of English words to their sign glosses. I don’t think they’re even claiming it makes an attempt at evaluating syntax. It’d sort of be like trying to understand a foreign language that you aren’t familiar with by using a dictionary. I doubt very much that this can actually render English as BSL.
I’ve seen another sort of technology that can take the deaf person’s fingerspelling and display it as text (or even voice it).
Many Deaf do have a knowledge (to greater or lesser degree) of the spoken language (English, in the case of the U.K. and the U.S.), so such a device might give them some degree of independence. Others, though, have virtually no knowledge of that language, so the string of signed glosses would be nearly meaningless to them.
I know, the objection is—as mentioned in the article as “will allow for interpretation in situations where a human interpreter is not available”—that it’s better than nothing at all.
According to the code of ethics I learned when I began working as an interpreter, though, poor interpretation is NOT better than nothing. With nothing, all parties understand that no communication is happening. Poor interpretation raises the possibility of profound misunderstandings where the parties involved might think they understand one another.
An example involved an under-qualified interpreter here in the U.S. She was qualified as a Pigdin Signed English interpreter, but not ASL. There was a murder, and a deaf man was arrested as the suspect. Her interpretation of the Miranda Rights were meaningless to the guy—yet, as most do in this situation, he nodded throughout, which she voiced as assent. He confessed to the crime, but had to be freed later.
This sort of thing was drilled into me—I am obliged to refuse assignments when I’m not qualified. It is NOT better than nothing.
Anyway, that’s my 2 cents. It’s still pretty cool technology!