Two students in the United States have invented a pair of gloves that translate American Sign Language (ASL) into text and speech. award-winning students, Thomas Pryor and Navid Azodi are students at the University of Washington. Their invention, called SignAloud, will enable mute and deaf people to properly and quickly communicate with those who are unable to understand ASL.
Their invention is a pair of custom-built gloves. These have built in sensors on the wrist and hand areas that measure hand movement and position. The electric signals are sent via Bluetooth to a computer program, which locates a match to the gesture from its data bank and sends the associated phrase or word back, as translated speech that can either be played back on a computer or read via a visual display.
Their prototype has been successfully tested, so the two inventors are now busy trying to make vocabulary improvements in their invention.
A major feat
As most ASL translators know, translating American Sign Language is already a complex process that is akin to interpreting/translating spoken languages. The World Federation of the Deaf also adds that different sign languages can have various dialects and grammar, and are used differently depending on the situation.
Even in countries where English is the common language, there is a difference in the sign language used. British Sign Language users employ two hands to sign the alphabet whereas American Sign Language users only sign with one hand.
The two inventors do not shy away from problems though, and many are expecting that they will be able to find the solution to ensure that different signers will be able to use their invention.
Light and practical
The two students said they wanted to build something light, handy and practical to use. While there are already sign language translator devices that are available, these are not practical for daily use, with some of them covering the entire body or arm of the user.
What they aimed for was to create a very handy ASL translator, something that’s as practical and handy as contact lenses or hearing aids. The SignAloud gloves are ergonomically designed to be used almost like an everyday accessory.
The Lemelson-MIT student prize awarded Thomas and Pryor close to $13,000 in prize money for their invention. The inventors said they already applying for a patent for their device and will use the award money to make further improvements on the gloves’ design. They said they would be speechless once they see people using their device.
Image credit: University of Washington