Nifty Gloves Convert Sign Language Into Spoken Words

By Nathaniel Scharping | April 20, 2016 12:17 pm

The SignAloud glove. (Credit: University of Washington)

Two sophomores at the University of Washington have been recognized for an invention that could break down communication barriers for the deaf.

Their invention, the SignAloud, is a pair of sensor-filled gloves that interpret the hand movements American Sign Language users use to communicate, and converts them into speech or text that the rest of us can understand.

The two students, Navid Azodi and Thomas Pryor, designed the gloves inside the CoMotion MakerSpace, a collaborative workshop on campus. They recently received the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for their work, which is a yearly award given to undergraduates for innovative inventions. They won in the “Use It” category, and received a $10,000 grant along with the prize.

Handy Words

Their gloves rely on a combination of sensors that interpret hand movements and position to send detailed information to a computer via Bluetooth, where a statistical regression chooses the most likely word or phrase from a database of ASL signs. The computer then outputs the speech as spoken words or text.

“Our gloves are lightweight, compact and worn on the hands, but ergonomic enough to use as an everyday accessory, similar to hearing aids or contact lenses,” Pryor said in a press release.

Other devices for translating ASL exist, but they can be bulky or awkward. One device relies on a series of sensors attached up and down the forearm, which is then combined with a large arm strap to read muscle movements. Another devices uses a camera to decode ASL — not very useful in the dark. Yet another gadget, the Accelaglove, combines accelerometers and a computer program with a low-profile glove.

Those who communicate with ASL often require a translator to make themselves understood. New devices like these will allow them to communicate clearly on their own terms, using technological intermediaries to bridge the gap between signed and spoken language.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: gadgets
  • Uncle Al

    Deaf Culture prides itself on insularity re condemning cochlear implants. This could be very interesting.

  • OWilson

    There are many ways to convert action to computer robo audio..

    All of which fail to deliver interesting personal inflection. Hawking is shortchanged by the boring monotone.

    Better to read their stuff (or learn to sign :)

  • Mary Ann Aragon Torella

    Where can I get this? My sister is deaf and mute

    • PamiB

      I have looked and looked. I can’t find out how to purchase these for my Granddaughter who is deaf. Mary Ann, if you find out, please let me know……. My name is Pam Blaze on FB. I’ve got to have these for Karley!!! Thanks

    • PamiB

      We have to find out where to buy these. I’m looking all over!!

  • Lydia

    can they program it to decode the nuances of facial expression and to detect various dialects of American Sign Language? Can it switch the grammatical structures of English into the grammatical structures of ASL? Do these kids know anything about Deaf Culture????!?! Otherwise, this is a neat trick but does almost nothing in terms bridging communication gaps. You are better off writing back and forth on a piece of paper

  • Ida B Native ASL

    Put it use.. Let’s see a Deaf native user of ASL express a story. It won’t be able to grasp classifiers and use of placeholders. Their example used signs in English word order, nothing like the rich complexity of ASL. Native signers are relaxed; not every sign is formed exactly like in a book.


Discover's Newsletter

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


See More

Collapse bottom bar