Hands That Talk: Virtual Reality Gloves Can Translate Sign Language Into Spoken Words

<p>EnableTalk connects to a smartphone to turn sign language into sounds.</p>

If you were in the UK last night and were watching BBC’s Newsnight you would’ve seen a new tech innovation, Enable Talk, showcased from Ukrainian group QuadSquad. They’ve created virtual reality gloves that can translate sign language into speech.

These prototype virtual reality gloves—which consist of a microcontroller, 15 flex sensors, accelerometer, gyroscope, a compass, Bluetooth module, and USB port—translate sensory input into soundwaves, which means they can translate the movements of sign language into text and then into spoken word.

The aim is to make a mobile device that can recognize and translate sign language, where the gloves capture the movements of the hand and transmit the pattern to a cellphone, which matches the pattern with a word and makes the relevant sound. The group also say the device has applications elsewhere, “Furthermore, the potential of our system is in no way limited to the described field, but can also be applied in virtually every segment of IT.” The team of programmers won first prize at the Imagine Cup 2012 for their invention.

While reactions on Newsnight were mixed—from being touted as a significant tool to helping deaf people communicate with the non-deaf world, to it having an inability to comprehend the intricacies of body movements that aid sign language—it’ll still be interesting to see how this develops and what other applications arise from it.