July 6 2020
BIOENGINEERS have built a glove able to translate sign language to speech in real-time.
The cutting-edge glove features thin, stretchable sensors running to the fingertips. These sensors can detect motions and finger placement through electrically conducting yarns. Those sensors are then connected to a tiny circuit board ” approximately the size of a coin worn on users’ wrists.
When people move their hands and fingers to form ‘words’, the glove translates the individual letters, numbers, words and phrases into audible language.
Extra sensors can be added to the face, between the eyebrows and on the sides of the mouth, to capture facial expressions. The actual translation takes place through a smartphone app. This uses a custom machine-learning algorithm to convert gestures into the letters, numbers and words.
The system reportedly recognises 660 signs, includes each letter of the alphabet and the numbers from zero to nine. The glove gadget can translate at a speed of one word per second. And the technology is thought to have a recognition rate of up to 98.63 percent. A commercial version of this technology would require more vocabulary and a faster translation time.
The University of California (UCLA) has filed a patent on the glove.
Jun Chen, the principal investigator on the glove, said: “Our hope is that this opens up an easy way for people who use sign language to communicate directly with non-signers without needing someone else to translate for them.”
“In addition, we hope it can help more people learn sign language themselves.”
The benefits of the glove are its portability and weight. Previous wearable devices offered similar capabilities, but that technology was heavy and impractical to wear. This new design is far lighter, and the polymers are inexpensive ” as are the electronic components.
However, some deaf researchers have criticised the development.
Gabrielle Hodge, a deaf researcher from the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre at University College London, told CNN: “There is nothing wrong with these forms of communication.”
“The tech is redundant because deaf signers already make extensive use of text-to-speech or text translation software on their phones, or simply write with pen and paper, or even gesture clearly.
“It would be so much easier if tech focused on user-driven and user-centred design in the first instance, rather than dreaming up ‘solutions’ they think will fix all the problems in the world.”