Children learning the signs of Easter

By Deb Fox  |  Wycliffe Today Winter 2023  |

In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book, and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness. – Isaiah 28:18 (NLT)

Do you remember listening to Bible stories in Sunday School? For many Deaf children, there are very few resources available for them to learn more about God’s love for them. So far, only American Sign Language (ASL) has the full Bible available. Australian Sign Language (Auslan) only has a few books translated and does not have any resources to support Scripture engagement. Wycliffe Bible Translators Australia members Saul and Rebecca Thurrowgood want to change that. 

Saul & Rebecca Thurrowgood

Saul and Rebecca Thurrowgood with their children.

The Thurrowgoods have been working in partnership with the Bible Society to create animated Bible stories for children in Auslan. The Christmas story was released at the end of 2022 and an Easter message was recently published. The videos are based on evangelical children’s booklets the Bible Society produced a couple of years ago. They have been created using the motion capture Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool called ‘Chameleon’ which Saul and his team have been refining for the past 10 years ’and which converts the signed movements from a real person to an animated character.

Saul explains:

Last year, the Bible Society wanted to see if they could use Chameleon for translation projects and they came to check it out. We trialled the technology with the Christmas story and were thrilled that it worked so well. The second time around, everything worked even more smoothly with the Easter story. All the characters are consistent throughout the series. It’s been a long time building up but we’re finally seeing fruit from all the years of hard work to get Chameleon off the ground. 

Rebecca adds:

A screenshot of the Easter video translated into Auslan.

I’ve been thinking a lot about creating resources for kids to put online to equip the church. These videos are like a seed – the first in a way of creating resources for Deaf children. Auslan has its own linguistic style that is very poetic visually that would not translate the same way in spoken English. These videos provide the stories in a form that kids can easily understand. We have a dream for Deaf community to be able to connect with the gospel. The children’s stories we’ve created using Chameleon so far will hopefully be a good start.


  • for more people to join the team! We need workers highly skilled in programming, computer science, AI, computer vision and robotics
  • that the Auslan translation of the Easter story can continue to be shared with Deaf children throughout Australia and open their hearts to the love of Jesus
  • for the languages and countries that have shared an interest in using Chameleon

More: To watch the video, click here. To visit the Chameleon website, click here.

Chameleon: changing the future of Deaf Bible translation

By Deb Fox  |  Wycliffe Today Spring Edition 2020  |

Saul and Rebecca Thurrowgood are Wycliffe members who have just welcomed the birth of their fifth child. They are also excited about the arrival of a program Saul and his team have spent many years perfecting in partnership with the Deaf Bible Society: Chameleon. Rebecca explains that, just like the chameleon’s ability to adapt and change in order to communicate, ‘the goal of Chameleon is bringing the gospel to the Deaf in a new way that protects the people involved by changing their appearance.’ 

Currently, less than two per cent of the world’s Deaf identify as followers of Jesus. Many do not have access to God’s Word in a language they understand—their own sign language. There are over twenty-five sign languages with portions of Scripture available on video but there are significant barriers to videoing real people for the translation of the remaining sign languages. 

For many regions around the world, persecution is a daily occurrence. Therefore, filming a real person recording sign movements in their local sign language may be a dangerous move. Another barrier which often presents itself in small Deaf communities is denominational differences among Christians. Unlike the anonymity of a printed Bible translation, the face of the signer may become attached to the signed translation. If their character, past life or community become an issue, they risk overriding the message of the gospel. The use of animated characters eliminates these risks and also enables the translation work to be accelerated.

How does the technology work? 

Chameleon is a form of motion capture technology which uses artificial intelligence which the team has trained to create neural networks1 for an avatar (an animated character) to copy.2 In order to create the neural networks, they have had to source movements from as many places as possible, including videos already available from the Deaf Bible Society and filming live recordings in a studio.

Saul says: 

We need the computer to track the person, regardless of their shape, size, ethnicity and gender. We need to train the computer to recognise the various parts of the body. We have trained the computer’s neural networks to recognise different locations including the body, the hand and five different neural networks in the face. There are hundreds of thousands of images fed into the computer in order for it to recognise various shapes. Once it can remember specific movements, the avatar can be asked to perform a number of sign movements.

Rebecca explains: ‘We’re trying to get the computer to recognise the movements. Perfect copying means a better data output—the better that is, the better the outcome is.’ 

After many years of setbacks and trials, Chameleon 1.0 is almost ready for release. Saul says that the team was excited to discover that a team in South-East Asia had been using the pre-release version of the program and it worked better than expected. 

Rebecca adds: 

To know that this technology is being used for its intended purpose is a huge blessing. We are so grateful knowing that this product will be a way to get the gospel out to places where it otherwise may have been impossible to create a sign language translation safely.


1 Neural networks: A set of algorithms, modeled loosely after the human brain, that are designed to recognise patterns.
2 An avatar is an electronic image that represents—and may be manipulated by—a computer user.

Thanks for your patience...

Waiting is hard, isn't it. But imagine waiting 2000 years for Scripture in your language! Thanks for your patience. And thanks for your generous support which will help bring the long wait to an end...