Bioengineers from the University of California, Los Angeles have successfully created a glove-like piece of wearable technology that is capable of translating American Sign Language into English speech. Using a smartphone app, the device can interpret and translate the gestures that make up ASL in real-time.
The system is made up of several components that allow for communication to flow smoothly. A pair of gloves equipped with thin, stretchable sensors is used by the signer; these sensors run along every one of the five fingers and are made from electrically conducting yarns. This allows them to easily pick up individual hand and finger movements and gestures.
From there, the smartphone app takes these movements and translates them. They can be individual letters and numbers, or they can be complete words and phrases; the app is able to discern these differences and translate them in real-time, allowing for a smoother and more organic conversation. The app currently is capable of translating about a word a second.
“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.”Jun Chen,assistant professor of bioengineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering and the principal investigator on the research
Additionally, researchers took sensor tape and placed it on the faces of the users. The sensors were applied to the arch of the eyebrows and the sides of the mouth, as facial expressions are a significant aspect of American Sign Language.
This system is a significant advancement over previous designs. Past attempts to create a translator for American Sign Language have resulted in devices that are often cumbersome, clunky, and in many cases with significant delays in the translation process.
Researchers hope to fine-tune their design and create a wearable technology that can be used in daily life. They are optimistic that not only will this system make it easier to communicate with American Sign Language, but it will also inspire many more people to take a stab at learning ASL for themselves.