A glove that can translate sign language into speech in real time via a smartphone app has been developed by bioengineers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).
The details of its prototype have been published in the journal Nature Electronics : for the translation, a custom machine learning algorithm was used that converted the gestures into letters, numbers and words that they represented.
Portable and inexpensive
The device is made of lightweight and inexpensive yet durable elastic polymers. Electronic sensors are also very flexible and inexpensive , unlike previous devices, which were much more cumbersome.
The system recognized 660 signs, including each letter of the alphabet and the numbers 0 through 9.
In gloves, thin, stretchy sensors run along each of the five fingers. The sensors are made of electrically conductive wires , picking up hand movements and finger placements that represent individual letters, numbers, words and phrases.
The device then converts finger movements into electrical signals, which are sent to a coin-sized circuit board worn on the wrist.
Finally, the board transmits those signals wirelessly to a smartphone that translates them into spoken words at a speed of approximately one word per second .
As Jun Chen , Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at UCLA’s Samueli School of Engineering and Principal Investigator on the research, explains:
We hope this opens up an easy way for people using sign language to communicate directly with non-signers without the need for someone else to translate for them. Also, we hope it can help more people to learn sign language.