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SignAloud Converts Sign Language To Spoken Language

People converse every day to express themselves. It’s something that we normally take for granted. Learning a new language is an example of how difficult this is. However, it is nothing compared to the difficulties people with hearing or speech disabilities experience.

People with these disabilities use sign language, but often their thoughts and feelings are unfortunately lost to those who don’t understand it. To make communication easier between these two worlds, students developed gloves that can translate sign language into written or oral language.

Bridging communication gaps

The SignAloud gloves use embedded sensors to monitor and track the movements and position of the wearer’s hands. It uses a Bluetooth connection to transfer information to the computer. From there, the system runs the movements through a library of gestures and interprets it. Once a match has been found, an automated voice will verbalize the message through a speaker.

The inventors Navid Azodi and Thomas Pryor came up with the idea during their freshmen years at the University of Washington. Since then, their invention has won $10,000 from the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize Competition.

The gloves have a distinct advantage over similar tech and competitors as most hand gesture-to-speech translators aren’t as practical. While most devices may cover the wearer’s entire arm with sensors, the SignAloud gloves are lightweight and wireless. This means that the gloves won’t be wire-bound to a terminal.


It starts with a gesture

Of course, the invention has faced its fair share of criticism. It’s good that it helps others in getting info from people with hearing disabilities, but it doesn’t work the other way around. However, it is a good way to educate people more about people with hearing impairments and sign language.

The gloves are not perfect yet, as they still face numerous obstacles to cover the nuances of ASL. These nuances are often portrayed through body language or facial expressions to represent other emotions. There’s also the issue of simply transliterating rather than translating these gestures. In any case, this kind of technology is a step in the right direction for people to better communicate with the deaf community.

YouTube: SignAloud: Gloves that translate sign language to voice

Photo credits: The feature image was taken by Andrei Lazarev.
Sources: Lemelson-MIT Program / Tim Gruver (The Daily of the University of Washington) / Michael Erard (The Atlantic)

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Rafio Shazzad
Tech Journalist