It is challenging to convert sign language into speech and text, and vice versa. Students at the University of Washington have found a way to potentially solve this issue. Their SignAloud gloves convert American Sign Language into speech or text in a rather accurate manner.
SignAloud Gloves Are a Game Changer
We struggle to communicate with people more than ever before. This problem only grows worse if one person in the conversation relies on American Sign Language (ASL) while the other does not know it. Few people who do not need to use ASL regularly understand or know it. Some signs have multiple interpretations, usually based on country or geographic region, as well.
The new gloves developed by two University of Washington students may finally solve these problems. The team won a $10,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for their invention, demonstrating the gloves’ potential and value. The SignAloud gloves are capable of translating American Sign Language into speech or text that most people can easily interpret. Having such a tool at one’s disposal will bridge the gap between native American Sign Language speakers and the rest of the world.
Communication is a fundamental part of our society and species. However, it is difficult to communicate in American Sign Language if only one party knows the correct gestures to illustrate a point. While these gloves will not turn everyone into an expert in American Sign Language, they can certainly help make conversations a bit easier. Additionally, they can be a great aid for people learning American Sign Language.
Both of the SignAloud gloves are equipped with sensors to record the hand gestures made by the wearer. This information is transmitted to a central computer through a wireless communication protocol. Once the computer looks at the data and evaluates it, matching gestures will be turned into words or phrases transmitted through a speaker. It sounds like a rather complex setup, but it seems to work just fine.
Improving the overall functionality of the SignAloud gloves will be rather difficult, however. There are many dialects, situational context, and grammar in sign language. Ensuring that one pair of gloves is compatible with all of these different permutations of sign language will be virtually impossible to achieve anytime soon. That does not mean we will not see such a solution in the future, but for now, these gloves are limited to American Sign Language only.
It is good to see such a practical solution for interpreting and communicating through American Sign Language. Other translation devices are very unwieldy to use, as they may have different requirements for recording gestures. These gloves are very lightweight, compact, and still ergonomic enough to not look like you have a bionic arm straight out of a science fiction movie. It is unclear if the SignAloud gloves will ever become available to consumers, and if so, how much they would cost.