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PUBLISHED: 4:41 PM on Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Deaf, hearing culture to merge at Juneau event
Juneau entrepreneur Oliver Bowen, 24, has taken significant steps since starting his business, Off World Technology, a company that develops specialized software to improve the quality of life for deaf people. Offering innovate technology, Bowen has designed voice recognition software that learns by listening to the human voice. In addition, he's resolving three-party telephone communication and developing gesture recognition software. On his Web site, he demonstrates the upcoming release, "Voice Over TTY," a new way for deaf people to communicate over the phone.

Bowen offers free sign languages online as well to encourage deaf communication, which has a large following worldwide.

Around six years ago, Bowen began to work on the technology software, and is now becoming established in the community with an office and sponsors. Along his side are founding members Joshua Bowen, video production and quality control manager; April Dominguez, matron mother and head of Off World's product testing department and R&D associate; and founding member Mike Fitzhugh, head organizer and public relations manager.

"Off World Technology is committed to creating computer software that provides independence to its users. We are also committed to increasing deaf awareness and to allowing people to express their support for the deaf community and culture using their own creative expression," his Web site states.

On Saturday, Dec. 1, Off World Technology will host a deaf expo event called "Silent World no Longer," at Centennial Hall.

The concept of the event is to raise the level of deaf awareness, bridge social and communications gaps between deaf and hearing people, spread sign language knowledge and allow artists/musicians to express their support through music, he said.

The event was made possible with over 25 sponsors and organizations pledging their support including KINY, REACH and KTOO. Bowen hopes to pack in over 1000 attendees at the educational and action-packed Deaf Expo.

Free Sign Language classes will be available from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. as well as a technology exposition exposition of the software and educational material. Local favorite Jeff Brown, of KTOO, will entertain children with balloon representations of sign language.

Additional entertainment during the day includes face painters, free fried bread and a concession stand. Beginning at 8 p.m. until midnight or later, eight local bands will perform featuring rap, rock, country and metal music. Bands include Lifted Embrace, Moses Kane, North Kut Wolf Pack and more.

Face painting will also be available during the night events.

"One of my deaf friends came to me and expressed their inability to participate in a concert here in Juneau. So we are showing through our technology that an event can be organized that allows visual stimulation and opens up the event for deaf and hearing to attend together," Bowen said. "The combination of vibration, sound and visual entertainment allows everybody to have a good time together no matter if they're deaf or hearing."

"There will be a big screen video projecting onto the back wall of the stage and it will have closed captioned of all the material the artists are saying and signing. There will be a lot of visual and audio special effects," he said.

Bowen, whose parents are both deaf, has always wanted to find a way to help out his family. Seeing his family struggle with frustrations in daily situations encouraged him to pursue and resolve the gray areas within deaf communication.

"This event represents a turning point in our companies operations where we shift from a research/development phase of our core software into a more aggressive marketing advertising and public relations campaign," Bowen said.

"Since we will have the event as social proof, we will be able to move forward as a credible authority in the niches we are serving."

Building up to the event, Off World Technology is accepting door prizes as well as donations for funding.

We are in need of some outside help in materials and finance, Bowen said.

"I'm looking forward to deaf and hearing people spending time together at the same event, communicating together, learning together and enjoying the music, visual effects, together," he said.

"If all we accomplish is one deaf person and one hearing person who never communicated with deaf/hearing are able to communicate then the event is a success."

For more information contact: 957-0924 or visit www.silentworldnolonger.com, www.silentworldnolonger.com/blog/ or www.offworldtechnology.com.


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