Scientists Create Gloves That Can Translate Sign Language Into Speech

While sign language has helped people communicate with people facing speech difficulties, it also limits the conversation amongst those who can understand it. As such, while it does facilitate interaction, it doesn’t completely make it a natural conversation between the signers & the non-signers. Fortunately, bioengineers working at UCLA have come up with a new solution to this age old problem, and it comes in the form of some cool tech gloves!

What are these gloves and how do they work?

smart gloves for hand gesture recognition

Technology has always helped mankind to solve problems. This time the bioengineers from UCLA have innovated a product which they claim can help make the lives of specially abled easier. The students have published their research in the Journal Nature Electronics. These researchers have been successful in creating smart gloves which can translate the American Sign Language into speech using motion sensing technology. The device (which is a glove) translates the sign language using a smartphone which can be connected to the device 

The principal investigator of the research was Jun Chen who is also an assistant professor of bioengineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering.

Design of the gloves

The pair of smart gloves consist of a flexible sensor which runs throughout the length of  fingers. These sensors are made of electricity conducting yarns which grab the motion of hands and fingers that stand for a particular English letter, words or any phrase. The device then generates electrical signals based on the movement of fingers and sends them towards the wrist where the circuit is present.

The circuit board then transmits the signal to the phone wirelessly. The rate of translations of words is about one word per second.  They have also added adhesive sensors for faces in between their eyebrows and one side of their mouth to catch the facial expression as facial expression is also a part of sign language.

How are they different?

smart gloves for hand gesture recognition

There are several inventions made earlier for these kinds of translations but they are all bulky and are really uncomfortable to wear. But this invention is easy to carry around and lighter to wear, without causing any uneasiness.

Current uses of the gloves

smart gloves for hand gesture recognition

This is definitely a life altering discovery for those who can’t speak. It will make communication simpler for everyone. It is easy to wear and it recognizes around 660 signs including all the letters of the alphabet and the numbers from 0 to 9. 

Even though the smart gloves can currently translate only the American Sign Language, but they can be programmed to convert any sign language to speech by the manufacturers. As there are 100+ major sign languages used all over the world.

Future versions of the gloves

smart gloves for hand gesture recognition

In addition to being lightweight and comfortable to wear, the device is also designed to last longer and affordable. 

The Researchers are still working on the gloves to make them slimmer and more ergonomic. They are currently working with a group of specially abled people to understand their problems better, to make them comfortable with the gloves. The researchers may also create a more improved and better designed second generation of the gloves soon. 

UCLA has already applied for a patent for the technology. To produce a commercial model which can be launched in the market, increased vocabulary and faster speed is needed as per Chen: “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.” Says Jun Chen, principal investigator of the research.

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