The smart glove – a bridge between people with and without hearing disabilities
Those who have difficulties with spoken language or hearing can find communicating difficult. This problem may be intensified if others do not understand sign language, which replaces words with gestures. However, designer and media artist Hadeel Ayoub may have found a solution to the problem with her invention the ‘SignLanguageGlove’.
Hadeel Ayoub is a Saudi student from Goldsmiths University of London who has just completed her masters in computational arts. The smart glove that she developed translates sign language from hand gestures into visual text on a screen and converts the text to spoken words. This will allow speech- and hearing-impaired people to communicate with those who do not understand sign language; as most people.
How does it work?
The gloves are equipped with sensors on the fingers to recognize sign language. The sensors in combination with an accelerometer detect and keep track of how a person bends its fingers as it signs and how the user orientates its hand as it signs. A computer programme then translates these recorded motions into a visual language displayed on a screen. In addition, the glove includes a ‘text-to-speech chip’ that enables an audible dialogue.
How original is the solution?
Even though the SignLanguagueGlove is novel, in the last few years others have come up with similar smart gloves. In 2012, for example, a team of four Ukrainian students developed the ‘Enable Talk Gloves’, a prototype that won a software design competition. Likewise, Mexican researchers developed a prototype that transmitted the glove wearer’s signs via Bluetooth to a mobile device capable of translating the movements into text and speech to facilitate communication between people. According to Ayoub, her glove is different from current designs in matters of size (more compact) and the fact that it enables multilingual translation features.
Future and developments
Besides incremental improvements, progress is being made to develop smaller versions for children. In addition, next prototypes are expected to include a smart phone and tablet app which can receive the glove’s output over Wi-Fi within a reasonable range.
Hadeel Ayoub has already been approached by several companies interested in taking the glove into production. The gloves have already gone through three prototyping stages and the fourth is expected to cost around €300 per piece to produce.
Personally, I see some challenges in incorporating the arms, body and facial expression parts of sign language into the system. However, I truly believe that the smart glove has a big potential in successfully breaking down language barriers and to improve communication between people with and without different (hearing and/or speaking) disabilities.