SignLanguageGlove: A student’s mission to bridge communication gaps

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Goldsmith, University of London — Hadeel Ayoub just recently completed her MA in Computational Arts from the Department of Computing, but she’s already well underway on a mission to improve communication between people with different disabilities.

Hadeel is the creator of SignLanguageGlove, a wireless device that interprets sign language gestures into text. When the wearer pulls on the glove and begins to sign, flex sensors on each finger detect how the fingers bend while an accelerometer keeps track of how the hand is oriented in space. All this data goes to an Arduino serial monitor, where software interprets the movements and converts them to text, which is displayed on a small screen on the wrist.

first prototype

First prototype of the SignLanguageGlove

 

SignLanguageGlove already completed three prototyping stages, with the most recent prototypes tucking away the wires and including a text-to-speech chip that turns signs into spoken language. Hadeel is already working on a fourth prototype, which will include refining the design to make the circuitry less bulky, with the eventual goal of fitting it comfortably on a child’s glove. The next version will also include WiFi, so wearers can send text directly to nearby devices.

Second prototype

 

The concept of a sign language glove has already garnered attention on other fronts. Team QuadSquad from Ukraine won a software design competition with their prototype back in 2012, and researchers in Mexico released a Bluetooth-enabled prototype last summer.

Hadeel points out a number of differences between her design and other current designs, including a less bulky form factor that makes it more comfortable to wear. And as a speaker of multiple languages (Arabic, French, and English) Hadeel points to translation as an important part of her concept for SignLanguageGlove. As technology gets smaller and computing power grows, we get closer to the reality of a glove that is easy to wear and capable of interpreting the signs of multiple sign language dialects.

So what inspired Hadeel to being developing SignLanguageGlove? Last fall she talked to Vice’s Emiko Jozuka about her inspiration for the glove and future plans.

Hadeel started working on the SignLanguageGlove concept after seeing her four-year-old niece, who has autism and doesn’t speak, communicate using sign language. “I wondered what would happen if she tried to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak the same language,” she said. “Does that mean she wouldn’t be able to get through to them?”

Down the road, these gloves could solve that problem by becoming a translation device between sign language dialects. There are around 300 different sign languages in use around the world today, and the boundaries between spoken and sign languages do not always coincide. For example, there is very little overlap between the signs in American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL) – so traveling to the UK is a very different experience if you communicate using ASL versus spoken English.

The implications of SignLanguageGlove as a translation tool are significant, and could pave the way to improve communication for Deaf people around the glove. Not to mention the glove’s potential as an instructional tool aid for people learning a sign language!

As a company that exists to help improve accessibility for the Deaf and hard of hearing community, we couldn’t be more excited to see projects like this one chipping away at communication barriers around the world — and we really look forward to seeing how this concept evolves.