Motion-Sensing Gloves Could Let Deaf People Speak Aloud, Through Your Cellphone

By Sophie Bushwick | July 10, 2012 10:26 am

Prototype of the EnableTalk gloves

Programs that transform typed words into speech are old hat. But what about a tool to translate sign language into audible conversation? Ukrainian students have created gloves that can sense what the hands are signing and a program that translates the signs into both text and speech. The project, called EnableTalk, is a finalist in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup competition.

According to a 2005 estimate, about 2 to 4 out of 1,000 Americans are completely deaf, and as many as 22 out of 1,000 have severe hearing loss. For most of the general public, however, sign language is as foreign as ancient Greek, which makes communication with the hearing-impaired difficult. EnableTalk may be able to bridge that language barrier with a smartphone and a pair of sensitive gloves—“sensitive” in that they are equipped with flex sensors to detect fingers’ positions and other sensors to define the hands’ positions in space. A smartphone app receives the hands’ movements via Bluetooth, matches them with stored signs, and then displays the written words and says them aloud. Users can also add new signs to the system. Perhaps the greatest innovation is the suggested sale price of $400 per pair of gloves—similar existing projects cost as much as $1,200.

[via Tech Crunch]

Image courtesy of EnableTalk

  • Steven M

    It might be great for the deaf, but I think there’s an even larger potential market: as an alternative keyboard for anybody. For example, I could picture using these and being able to put away my full-size keyboard. Or, to perform typing while riding on a train or plane. Or typing while in bed.

  • Jenk

    fantastic innovation. surgical and precise. identify a need, smoothly arrange the existing tech AND at a reasonal cost? aaawwr yeeeeeaaaahh

  • Bonnie

    This is sooooo impressive! Kudos, inventors!

  • Joseph

    Steven M: I was thinking the same thing. It may even be faster than strait typing to a proficient user of sign language as you can put down entire words with one gesture instead of typing the individual letters.

  • John

    The technology seems nice and all, but what about translating spoken language back into sign? This allows for one way communication only? Seems like a waste of money to me.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar