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This new smart glove can turn sign language into text and speech

Oct 20, 2015 / by Katharine Allen

From Science Alert news...

Article Excerpt: Sign language has helped the hearing-impaired communicate for many centuries, way before it was formalised and officially recognised, but this long-standing language of gestures has now been given a 21st-century technological upgrade. Saudi designer and media artist Hadeel Ayoub has invented a smart glove that recognises hand movements and converts them into the relevant text.

Much like Google Translate can give anyone a basic grasp of a foreign language in an instant, this glove is designed to help sign language users make themselves understood by those who can't usually interpret it. 

Link to full article HERE.

InterpretAmerica's Take: We often highlight news that shows the progress, or lack thereof, made by efforts to create an accurate, automatic digital tool to bridge oral multilingual communication barriers. These efforts are both a marathon and a sprint, as tech companies compete in a race to find what some view as an inevitability and others as elusive as the Holy Grail. 

Today's Interpreting the News shines a light on tech efforts to automate sign langauge interpreting, which introduces an entirely different element to efforts to mechanize human communication: the human gesture. If successful, this smart glove will allow deaf people to communicate directly with the hearing public through sign language that is "read" by the glove and then converted into an automated digital text. In this scenario, the interpreter is not needed. 

Sound familiar? Spoken language interpreters increasingly share space with apps designed to replace them. Medical apps help doctors and nurses ascertain basic healthcare information from patients. Machine translation engines powered by Google, Skype and Microsoft are racing to layer on reliable text to speech functions that make it seem like your smart phone is providing interpretation. 

Will the sign language smart glove travel a parallel course? On the one hand, it seems unlikely that the gesture-to-text software could ever fully capture the nuanced meaning expressed by human sign language interpreters, just as machine translation has yet to fully capture the nuanced communication of spoken language. On the other hand, it would most certainly provide a valuable mechanism for deaf and the hard of hearing to communicate directly, even if superficially, with hearing individuals without the need for an interpreter. 

We would love to hear what you think, especially from anyone with experience with a sign language smart glove or similar technology. Do their benefits outweigh their downside? If so, in what way? Leave us a comment and let's keep the conversation going. 


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