For up to two million deaf Americans, signing is like a first language--in fact, it's noted as the sixth most used language in the country. Sadly, not many people who aren't deaf can sign, making communication sometimes difficult. Fortunately, a group of students are trying to bridge the gap with a translator, housed in a glove.
The Sign Language Translator Glove, made by a trio of students at Cornell University, uses a variety of sensors to translate different finger and hand movements into spoken English language. From there, a "base station" will pronounce and show the letter being signed. That translation can then be sent on to a computer, where you could use the information to test people's ability to sign--quite the learning tool!
The glove contains nine flex sensors, four contact sensors, and two different types of accelerometers. Flex sensors located along the fingers distinguish letters, while the contact sensors can determine further if the flex sensors were not precise enough in recognizing signs--some sign letters are quite similar to each other. Contact sensors also pick up when fingers are touching. Accelerometers establish the movement and orientation of the glove.
A microcontroller puts all the information gathered by sensors together, and figures out which letter is being signed by the glove's wearer. The information is then passed onto another microcontroller attached to the base station via a transceiver. The letters will then show up on the display, and can be sent for use on games or other uses on a computer.
The glove is pretty incredible, even if the translation process seems quite long at present. The Sign Translator could become a great tool to get people learning the language, or even communicating with ASL speakers.
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