Joystiq is reporting that Valve Software is researching sign language for the next episode (3) of Half-Life 2 by conducting a focus group with deaf individuals. The company is looking to understand the language and how it can be used in games. Valve's first use of the new sign language technology will be implemented into the backstory of Alyx as explained in this YouTube video with Gabe Newell.
"[Alyx] had a crush on someone who was hearing impaired, so she taught Dog how to sign so she could practice," Newell said. "Something happened, maybe, the person is off fighting the Combine someplace else, but that's why she and Dog would start signing with each other when they wanted to communicate without making noise, or communicate without other people knowing."
The largest aspect of virtualizing the use of sign language is not only the unique hand movements, but the facial expressions as well. While Valve Software has been one of the more prominent developers in regards to character facial movements, taking on sign language and its nuances is a huge--but ultimately a beneficial--project. Ultimately Valve wants to create a believable, authentic experience, a believable backstory for the heroine.
"It gave us the excuse to build the technology for signing," he said.