New Open Doors

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Partnerships are very important for the spread of the Gospel.  We are grateful that Chris can focus on developing software that accelerates Bible Translation and distribution.  Recently, his organization partnered with Faith Comes by Hearing (FCBH) and Renew Outreach to make changes to Scripture App Builder that will allow them to open new doors to distribute Bible apps with text and audio to minority language communities.
FCBH has Bible recordings in 1,066 languages.  They distribute these recordings using the Bible.is app for Android and iOS devices (and others). This requires that the user install the app from an app store.  Due to licensing restrictions, the audio has to be streamed over the internet.  This is a huge barrier (and in some cases dangerous) to many minority language communities.  Renew Outreach works with FCBH to distribute the audio on lockable Micro SD cards and Wifi hotspots (LightStream) to be used in audio players and feature phones.

With the changes made to Scripture App Builder (we are collecting usage data and transmitting when the user is on-line), now FCBH and Renew Outreach will be able to create apps with the audio and text bundled into the app and distribute the app virally.

“Everyone is VERY excited about using these apps. I met one new friend in particular who runs a ministry in a restricted country. He’s very well networked in his nation, knows approximately 80% of the believers, of whom there are few. Thanks to this app, now they will all be able to get Bibles safely because it’s illegal to distribute Bibles otherwise and easy to get caught with print ones. … These are the kind of folks who will now be able to get Bibles in their language for the first time, unhindered by outside forces.  Praise God and thanks for your hard work on SAB!”
— Brandon Honselek, Vice President/COO, Renew Outreach

New Software, Come and Get it!

This article comes from our Newsletter which comes out 3-4 times per year.  Sign up to receive in your inbox!


Chris has been working with colleagues on porting Scripture App Builder to macOS for the past couple of years. This program allows users to create Bible apps specific to a minority language that include synchronized text and audio that are easy to distribute. Best of all, the user can do this with no programming necessary. Before, users on Windows and Linux computers could only create Android apps. Now users of Mac computers can create both Android and iOS apps. We are very excited to announce the first release of Scripture App Builder for Mac!

“For the past two or three years, Bible translation teams around the world have been enthusiastically building customized Android apps to make the translated Scriptures available in both text and audio. But we kept getting asked, “So, when can we build apps for the iPhone as well so that more people in our region can get access to God’s Word in their language?” Now the waiting is over: Scripture App Builder for Mac has now been released – and translation teams can go ahead and build both Android and iOS apps. Thank you so much to David and Chris for all their hard work to make this possible!” (Richard Margetts, SIL Francophone Africa)

Scripture App Builder 3.3 for Mac / iOS

Let’s Hack!

This article comes from our Newsletter which comes out 3-4 times per year.  Sign up to receive in your inbox!


hack_logo

Our team has recently released the first version of the Scripture App Publishing Service which automates the process of publishing Scripture Apps to the Google Play Store.  We currently have 175 apps managed in the Wycliffe Bible Translators, Inc account. However, our first version is only a minimum viable product and has limited workflow process management to handle the interaction between end users, the build infrastructure, and the service administrator.  Only parts of the process can be automated so people have to be involved.

To help accelerate the development of the Scripture App Publishing Service, our team is partnering with Indigitous, a movement passionate about connecting people to Jesus using digital strategies. We have submitted a project to the 2016 Indigitous #Hack, a global missional hackathon focused on solving technology problems related to missions. Are you a software developer? Consider participating in the hackathon which is Nov 4 – 6. There are host cities as well as a virtual group.

At Just the Right Time!

The vision of Wycliffe is to see God’s Word made accessible to all people in the language that speaks to their heart. Usually this might mean distributing a printed book. If there is a low literacy rate, then access to an audio version is important.

Audio versions of the Bible are recorded (often by Faith Comes By Hearing) and can be distributed on dedicated audio players like the Proclaimer. With the availability of smart phones, now a Scripture app created with Scripture App Builder can be distributed with the text and audio of the Bible bundled together.

What about early readers in the people group? Wouldn’t it be great if the text of the passage could be highlighted while the audio is being played?

In order to accomplish this, special timing files have to be created to let the software know which portions of the text and audio go together. Early attempts at this would take 45-60 minutes per chapter! For the Bible en Songoy de Gao App, this took weeks for a team of volunteers (listening to a language they didn’t know) to create these timing files.

Colleagues at Wycliffe searched for another way. Could software automate this process? Praise God, a solution was found! The Aeneas Library allows for the automated creation of the timing files. What used to take almost an hour can now be done in 3-5 seconds! How is this accomplished?

How does this thing work?

One word: Math

One Sentence (Layman Edition): A good deal of math and computer science, a handful of software engineering and some optimization tricks.

One Sentence (Pro Edition): Using the Sakoe-Chiba Band Dynamic Time Warping (DTW) algorithm to align the Mel-frequency cepstral coefficients (MFCCs) representation of the given (real) audio wave and the audio wave obtained by synthesizing the text fragments with a TTS engine, eventually mapping the computed alignment back onto the (real) time domain. 

 (source)

Phew! The result is that, now, a whole New Testament can be processed in less than an hour instead of weeks. Wycliffe is preparing to publish hundreds of Scripture apps. Many of them already have audio. This new software process came at just the right time!

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Above: Bible Dedication of the Soŋay Language of Gao, Mali included the Bible en Songoy de Gao App

Right: John 3:16 in Soŋay Language of Gao with text highlighting synchronized with audio

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One Thing

Chris recently attended the Mobile Ministry Forum 2015 Consultation. This photo and the story show below made quite an impact on him and those attending the meeting. In the face of some extremely challenging circumstances, God is using technology to spread the good news. The Gospel is being heard, seen, and read on mobile devices…and shared rapidly via Bluetooth and microSD cards.

Displaced Iraqi Christians Identify Their Most Treasured Material Possession

ERBIL, IRAQ – DECEMBER 13: (Editor’s note: Image has been processed using a digital filter) A Iraqi Christian, who asked not to be named, poses for a photograph in her tented home erected in the grounds of Mazar Mar Eillia (Mar Elia) Catholic Church, that has now become home to hundreds of fellow Iraqi Christians who were forced to flee their homes – many with less than an hour to do so – as the Islamic State advanced earlier this year, on December 13, 2014 in Erbil, Iraq. Asked, after her family what was the one thing she could not leave behind as ISIL advanced on her home, the student from Qaraqosh said her mobile phone. Although the autonomous Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq was already a refuge for an estimated 250,000 Syrian refugees, since the Islamic State began its onslaught on Iraq in June, Kurdistan has also taken in a more than one and a half million displaced people. Many have been placed in purpose-built refugee camps but the huge numbers mean thousands of others are forced to live in un-finished buildings or inadequate, makeshift shelters and as winter in the region closes in, there are growing concerns for the welfare of the refugees who, while their homes are still in ISIL controlled territory, have no realistic prospect of returning to them. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Meeting of the Mobile Minds

Payap University - Linguistics InstituteWycliffe has recognized that, even in the developing world, mobile computing is becoming more prevalent. We want to determine the most productive ways we can apply mobile app development to aid the Bible translation process. However, it takes dedicated time to assemble the data and people together to determine the correct course of action.

Our leadership decided it was time for this to happen. So, we began by gathering input from domain specialists and people working in the field. We wanted to know what mobile apps are currently being used or in the process of being developed. We also asked people to suggest ideas for mobile apps in the different areas related to our work: Bible translation, literacy, anthropology, cultural learning, linguistics, and ethnocentric arts.

The next step was to have a meeting of technical leaders with experience in mobile apps. Thanks to a generous gift by Every Tribe, Every Nation, we were able to meet together in Chiang Mai, Thailand at the end of September 2014. This meeting was comprised of developers from the language software group (including Chris) along with other Wycliffe missionaries in the field who were already developing mobile apps. These missionaries in the field have various primary ministry responsibilities, but they also have a background in programming and are doing extra work to meet a need where they are serving. Initial efforts at developing mobile apps have mostly been focused on scripture and dictionary publication. The mobile developers were able to compare experiences and learn from each other, process the data collected, and make plans for what Wycliffe should focus onin the near future. This meeting also helped build relationships among all these developers and find opportunities to work together.

As a result of these meetings, we have a better understanding of where we are currently and the next steps to take as we move forward. In the coming year, Chris will be helping with the completion and integration of several of the scripture and dictionary publication applications. After that, there is now a pipeline of mobile apps to work on. We are excited to see how God will bring about fruit from these meetings. We look forward to seeing the appropriate use of mobile apps to help those who receive the scripture in their heart language to engage with it and grow.

Note: This was originally included in our Winter 2015 Newsletter.

Mobile Devices

All the devices
brought by 11 people
to the mobile meeting
in Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

 

Why Another Bible App?

Bible AppsWhy should Wycliffe create yet another Bible App? One would think that existing Bible Apps could be used. Similar to the challenges with the publication of printed Bibles, there are cultural aspects of a Bible App (color, layout, usability, etc) that can be significant and affect the acceptability of an App within a culture.

There are also substantial technical challenges to overcome:

  • Distribute Apps without internet access
    • Use microSD, Bluetooth, and Hotspot–think viral!
  • Bundle text, audio, and custom font into a single App
  • Display complex scripts
    • many minority languages need special character support that isn’t supported by the OS
  • Support older devices
    • Some Bible Apps only support Android 4.0 and up.  There are still phone used and sold that are made with older hardware and run Android 2.3.
  • Protect sensitive users
    • No GPS location captured or network access required
  • Search using special character input
  • Publish incrementally

Actually, we are not creating another Bible app. Scripture App Builder will be used to generate many Bible apps. Each one will be specific to a language and can be published to an App Store and found when someone is searching for their language!

Note: This was originally included in our Winter 2015 Newsletter.  Some of the content was expanded.