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The 5G For Change
Hackathon

If the last couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that life needs some hacking. So for the first time in the history of The Webby Awards, we invite you to the 5G for Change Hackathon. There’s no shortage of things that need to be fixed. 5G is an invaluable tool in that pursuit—speed, access, and real-world change for the better.

Build something for change. Win a Webby and $50,000.

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Presented By:Verizon

26th Annual Webby Awards

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Team MRM Pitches an AI Avatar That Translates Spoken Language to ASL.

As a finalist team, they pitched to help people with hearing disabilities navigate video calls by using an AI-powered ASL translator. Learn more about the team and their project pitched during The Webby Awards’ 5G for Change Hackathon, presented by Verizon.
Arielle Henley and Tricia Munro at the 5G for Change Hackathon. Credit: Eryc Perez de Tagle.

Tricia Munro reflected on navigating Zoom fatigue and other video conferencing challenges while navigating two years of remote work. Still, she concluded, this didn’t compare to what American Sign Language (ASL) speakers face while using video conferencing tools. 

“One of the biggest issues ASL speakers face is that they have to request interpreters for video conferencing calls,” Munro said while explaining that interpreters’ unavailability or last minute calls leave deaf and hard of hearing people in a bind. 

“It’s pretty imperative that they have a way to communicate themselves, so that they feel connected and included,” she said.  

She and Arielle Henley, her creative partner at MRM Salt Lake City, were pitching a tech solution to make video conferencing easier for ASL speakers. They delivered this pitch as one of five finalist teams selected to participate in The Webby Awards’ first 5G for Change Hackathon.

Arielle Henley and Tricia Munro pitched at the 5G for Change Hackathon. Credit: Eryc Perez de Tagle.

Presented by Verizon, the hackathon challenged teams to tackle an important issue, and solve it by using 5G and the Internet. Out of 150 submissions, only five teams were selected to pitch before a judging panel of industry leaders, from Verizon, MIT Solve, the Black Ambition Opportunity Fund and Stagewell Global, on April 29th at Verizon’s headquarters in New York City!

The winning team will be announced at the 26th Annual Webby Awards on May 16th, and will be awarded $50,000. Learn more about this team and their project.

Claire Graves, Webby Awards President, speaking at the 5G for Change Hackathon. Credit: Eryc Perez de Tagle.

Team MRM

Topic: ASL x A.I. Avatars

Today, many video conferencing platforms have a feature that supports ASL interpreters and users, but it requires a live person to translate back and forth in sign language during meetings or education lessons. 

The problem is people can be unreliable. And one thing that was made clear during two years of working remotely, is that technology is fickle, subjecting users to connection issues, latency and disruptions. Something as seemingly simple as a lag during a video call “can hinder communication, and the toll on a deaf person can be both emotional and professional,” according to Team MRM’s pitch. 

Recognizing this fact, their solution was to give ASL speakers autonomy in virtual spaces, by creating “a built-in AI feature in Verizon Blue Jeans that interprets spoken language and translates it into ASL, but also interprets ASl and translates it into spoken language.”

During their pitch, Munro and Henley explained their vision to have an AI avatar sign to react whenever someone communicates during a videoconference. It will sign spoken words to the ASL user, using non-verbal language like facial expressions and body language. When the ASL speaker signs, the AI avatar will read it through the camera and verbalize the translation to meeting attendees that use spoken language. 

“As a team striving for inclusivity, we want to make sure that that experience is as fluid and seamless, for everyone, as possible,” Munro said.  

Tricia Munro and Arielle Henley being interviewed. Credit: Eryc Perez de Tagle.

About the Team 

As a distributed team working in remote and hybrid ways, the MRM Salt Lake City team is a diverse group of people with a love of language and how it creates human connections. Team members include: 

Kylie Nelson, an Associate Art Director at MRM Salt Lake City creating and working on the B2B side for brands like Verizon and Microsoft. They are passionate about design, branding, and being inclusive. Kylie studied graphic design and graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor in Fine Arts. Growing up in Utah, they love to snowboard in the winter and hike in the summer.

Arielle Henley, an Associate Copywriter with MRM Salt Lake City. She have a degree in English education and a love of languages. Arielle is a native New Yorker and an aspiring polyglot. She believes the internet is force for good and that accessibility is a necessity.

Tricia Munro, an Associate Art Director at MRM West working primarily on the Verizon account, but branches out for pitch projects featuring brands such as Toughbook and FSC. Born and raised in Baltimore, MD, she moved on to study Advertising and Digital Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. She is now based in Park City, UT, where she enjoys activities such as skiing and more importantly, Aprés Ski.

Josh Ormond, a Group Creative Director but started my career as a proofreader. He has had a life-long obsession with writing, telling stories, and the Ninja Turtles. All three have brought great joy and fulfillment to his life, only two have resulted in a career. Hehave three awesome kids and an incredible spouse. They love exploring nature, watching anything Star Wars, and visiting Disneyland. Communication is a passion Josh holds dear and a right that he champions for all.

Jamie Gadette, a Senior Strategy Director who loves to understand how people navigate the world. She started her career in news and continue to research, interview and tell stories like they are facing a midnight deadline. She is a fierce champion of keeping it real, cutting to the chase and elevating diverse voices. Jamie spends a lot of time hiking and running on mountain trails; hanging out with her husband, her son and their goofy dog; watching obscure music documentaries and listening to comedy podcasts.

Jillian, who is the Media Director for MRM Salt Lake City. Surprisingly enough she has a degree in Tourism but loves all things media, being able to understand user behaviors and being able to make decisions based on data is really the fun part.

Jarett LaTour, who is the VP, Account Director on the Business Leadership team at MRM. They have spent nearly 20 years strategically delivering experiences to target audiences that are both engaging, and ultimately address their pain points. A problem to be solved inspires me. They believe cooking a meal with love is an artistic expression that then becomes its own enjoyable experience to be shared.

Edward Diaz, Sr., is a Senior Social Media Manager for MRM Salt Lake City. Starting their social career as an influencer, they eventually shifted to the paid media side. Edward believe in the power of social media to create and inspire online communities.

Learn more about the 5G for Change Hackathon, and see the other finalists: Team Mayday, Team Frame Perfect, Team Whose Metaverse and Team DataScape. The winning team will be announced on stage during the 26th Annual Webby Awards on Monday, May 16. 

Follow #Webbys to see who will this first-ever award at the 26th Annual Webby Awards, hosted by Roy Wood Jr. Catch the moment on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok or at webbyawards.com on Monday, May 16 at 9pm EDT. 

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