A team of bioengineers at the University of California has created a glove-like device that can translate sign language into speech.
Lead researcher Assistant Professor Jun Chen says he hopes the device will open a new avenue of communication for people who use sign language.
“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,” Professor Chen said.
In addition, we hope it can help more people learn sign language themselves.”
The device includes a pair of gloves, with sensors attached along the length of each finger.
The sensors pick up hand motions and finger placements used to express individual letters, numbers, words and phrases in American sign language.
Facial expressions are also important to convey meaning in sign language, so researchers attached adhesive sensors to the tester’s face between the eyebrows and on one side of their mouth.
The device then sends these signals to a small circuit board worn on the wrist. About the size of a coin, the circuit board wirelessly transmits to a smartphone.
Through the smartphone, the system can translate the hand movements and facial expressions into speech at a rate of about one word per second.
According to its website, UCLA has filed a patent for the technology, but Professor Chen said that to be used commercially, the device would require more vocabulary and faster translation time.