Two University of Washington students, Thomas Pryor and Navid Azodi, invented a new way for American Sign Language to happen in real time, and it’s as easy as slipping on a pair of gloves.
The purpose of these gloves is simple: allow hearing impaired users to bridge the communication gap between signed and verbal language. The gloves recognize what sign language is being expressed, then converts it to an audible response, creating a channel for communication.
According to Pryor, the gloves use sensors on the hands and wrists to measure movement, which is then transmitted to connected software via Bluetooth. As it’s processed through the program, the hand gestures are translated into speech.
Like the previous article on T-shirt communication, this sort of technology gives individuals an even wider range of attainable communication.
While these gloves offer the convenience of not having to learn the language, it doesn’t necessarily reflect the idea that Sign Language, especially the focused American Sign Language, is useless to learn. According to the two students, their intention is not to change or criticize the deaf community; this is all about understanding the world.
Though the device is still under development, currently just a prototype, the students were recently awarded the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize of up to $15,000 to continue their work. This also gives the device a chance to develop further than its current “all-computer” iteration, hopefully becoming available for smartphones.
Does this mean that traditional ASL will become obsolete? Not a chance, but it could be a significant leap forward in breaking the language barrier between those who can sign and others that don’t.
From Lemelson MIT YouTube Channel: