Brilliant: College Students Design Gloves That Translate Movement Into Speech

The SignAloud wearable technology translates hand movement into audible speech.

As advancements in technology are made, communication barriers will continue to dissolve. Because communication – a form of human connection – “is the key to personal and career success, according to Paul J. Meyer, such is positive news. One of the ways this will happen is with gloves that verbalize sign language signals.

Two University of Washington undergraduates, Navid Azodi and Thomas Pryor, are responsible for developing the technology which translates sign language into audible speech, on the spot. 

According to the University of Washington, the SignAloud wearable technology can recognize hand gestures that correspond to words and phrases in American Sign Language (ASL). In addition, each glove contains sensors that record hand position and movement. The data is then sent wirelessly via Bluebook to a central computer which translates the information. Then, the associated word or phrase is spoken through a speaker.

This technology could be a game-changer for friends, family members, and colleagues of deaf individuals.

Credit: University of Washington

Credit: University of Washington

The team of UW sophomores, one majoring in science and the other in business, developed the SignAloud technology to compete in the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize competition. Not only did they win the undergraduate category that recognizes technology-based inventions to improve consumer devices, they also received a $10,000 prize.

It took hours of tedious effort, but the sophomores were able to fashion to the prototype so it could translate ASL into a verbal form instantaneously and in an ergonomic fashion.

Said Pryor, who is studying aeronautics and astronautics engineering:

“Many of the sign language translation devices already out there are not practical for everyday use. Some use video input, while others have sensors that cover the user’s entire arm or body. 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.”

The duo met in the dorms during their freshman year and discovered like-minded interest for inventing things and solving problems. Abode has technical experience as a systems intern at NASA, and his long history of diverse volunteer work – which includes organizing dozens of blood drives – inspired him to build a device that could have real-world impact.

How will the young men use their prize money? Reportedly, they will use the $10,000 to continue developing the prototype and reach their target audience. As GoodNewsNetwork relays, there is the possibility that the gloves could also be commercialized for use in other fields, including medical technology to monitor stroke patients during rehabilitation, gesture control and enhanced dexterity in virtual reality.

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