• The 'Where is the Bird?' Activity Book. VIKA

Books inspiring children to play in sign language

Innovate UK South West

A Bristol-based publisher has developed an Augmented Reality (AR) ‘buggy book’’ that is inspiring a new generation of children, deaf and hearing, to play in British Sign Language.

‘Where is the Bird?’ works in tandem with a smartphone app that brings magical illustrations to life, with animations jumping out of the page and deaf presenters demonstrating the accompanying word.

“British Sign Language should be a language for everybody,” says Victoria Forrest FRSA, Founder of VIKA Books. “It allows both deaf and hearing children to communicate freely without speech. This is particularly useful in loud, silent, or distanced environments, like in a noisy playground or in a library.”

“It’s also invaluable for communicating with toddlers. Any parent will be familiar with the Terrible Twos, a time when children have complex thoughts that are far more advanced than their ability to express them. The child feels ‘locked-in’ and their frustration results in a tantrum.”

“Knowing simple signs can be a real lifeline for parent and child, for instance if the pain sign is made next to the ear, a child can communicate earache. There’s almost no other way to know if a pre-verbal child has earache without going to the doctor, which can take hours, sometimes days.”

In March 2022, Victoria was awarded an Innovate UK Women in Innovation Award, including a £50,000 grant and a bespoke package of mentoring and growth support from Innovate UK EDGE.

“The Women in Innovation Award is so empowering,” says Victoria. “It has given me confidence and validation in my work and agency to act as an ambassador for increasing integration between deaf and hearing communities.”

“The support from Innovate UK EDGE has been invaluable.”

Innovation and Growth Specialist, James Wheale, has been working with Victoria to develop a detailed growth plan, focused on securing funding and Intellectual Property.

“James’s role is vital in keeping me on track. He helps me stay focused on business strategy and ensures I’m ready to realise the opportunities that come my way.

“For instance, his critical appraisal of my Design and Art Direction (D&AD) Impact Fund application ensured I was successful in securing a £10,000 grant.”

The grant will be used to create a new zine, ‘Where are the Fish?’ which will use Augmented Reality and sign language to educate school-aged children on marine ecosystems and water safety.

IP support

James also helped VIKA Books to secure an IP Audit and IP Access grant, delivered in partnership with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

“My ideas are my income, so my IP and its protection are core to my business. Finding ways to formalise and organise my ideas, protect them and turn them into income streams is extremely important.

“These grants are helping me develop a structured IP strategy, find the right lawyers in the right areas and ultimately file key patents.

“Innovate UK EDGE support enables me to navigate the many complexities in IP protection and lay groundwork for future innovations at the same time. I’ve only managed to scratch the surface of what’s possible with XR technologies in publishing so far, there are far more ambitious publications in the pipeline.

“With an effective IP strategy in place, I have scope to grow VIKA Books and become a leader in this emerging category of Augmented publishing and Connected Books™.”

Innovate UK EDGE will continue to support this Bristol business as it helps young families to communicate, bridges the gap between deaf and hearing communities and establishes new possibilities in publishing.

Written by James Rowberry. Published by Innovate UK South West.




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