University students develop smart gloves that converts sign language into speech

Although sign language is another means of communication, it becomes problematic when those who understand just it try to communicate with those who don’t thereby causing a communication barrier, but that will soon be a thing of the past.

Students at the University of Washington have created a pair of gloves which converts sign language into spoken language. The invention, dubbed ‘SignAloud’ consists of a pair of gloves containing sensors that records hand position and movement before transmitting the data wirelessly over Bluetooth to a computer, the gesture is then translated and the word or phrase is spoken via speaker if it matches an American Sign Language gesture.

The algorithm used was that similar to how neural networks work in artificial intelligence to engineer the gloves to recognize specific sign language movements. “Many of the sign language translation devices already out there are not practical for everyday use. Some use video input, while others have sensors that cover the user’s entire arm or body, said Thomas Pryor. “Our gloves are lightweight, compact and worn on the hands, but ergonomic enough to use as an everyday accessory, similar to hearing aids or contact lenses.”

This new wearable could be used by deaf people, making it easier and more convenient for them to communicate simply by using their hands. Although Bluetooth could be a limiting factor regarding the range the gloves can operate, future upgrades might include a better wireless technology to it.

The wearable device earned Navid Azodi and Thomas Pryor $10,000 (£6,900). Mr Pryor is studying aeronautics and astronautics engineering, while Mr Azodi, a former NASA intern is studying business administration.

A sign language (also signed language) is a language which chiefly uses manual communication to convey meaning, as opposed to acoustically conveyed sound patterns. This can involve simultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to fluidly express a speaker’s thoughts. Sign languages share many similarities with spoken languages (sometimes called “oral languages”, which depend primarily on sound), which is why linguists consider both to be natural languages, but there are also some significant differences between signed and spoken languages. They should not be confused with body language, which is a kind of non-linguistic communication. Wherever communities of deaf people exist, sign languages have been developed. Signing is not only used by the deaf, it is also used by people who can hear, but cannot physically speak. It is not clear how many sign languages there are.

American Sign Language (ASL) is the predominant sign language of Deaf communities in the United States and most of anglophone Canada. Besides North America, dialects of ASL and ASL-based creoles are used in many countries around the world, including much of West Africa and parts of Southeast Asia. ASL is also widely learned as a second language, serving as a lingua franca. ASL is most closely related to French Sign Language (LSF). It has been proposed that ASL is a creole language, although ASL shows features atypical of creole languages, such as agglutinative morphology.

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