High Tech Gloves Translate Sign Language into Text and Voice

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SlateNewsChannel video about the new sensor-heavy gloves that translate sign language users’ gestures into text and voice.

How will this effect the Deaf Community and those who are speech impaired? Will they welcome the technology or will there be similar controversy as there is surrounding cochlear implants? EnableTalk doesn’t involve surgery but it will effect Deaf Culture.

Video transcription provided by Slate.com:

Could modern technology provide a huge leap forward for sign language users who want to communicate with the rest of us?

A team of Ukrainian engineers have developed something called EnableTalk—a set of gloves that translates sign language into text and then spoken words with flex sensors, touch sensors, and gyroscopes. For the millions of users around the world, the relatively cheap $75 technology could facilitate communication with those who don’t use or understand sign language. Better yet, EnableTalk has the ability to learn new and altered gestures, allowing for regional variations and dialect.

Unveiled in Sydney, Australia this week at Microsoft’s Imagine Cup competition, the EnableTalk gloves are probably a long way off from getting onto store shelves. But when and if they do, we can’t wait to teach them some new moves. Let’s just avoid giving a pair to MIA.

About Tara Miller

Tara "Masery" Miller is a panentheist Gaian mage living in the Ozarks with her husband and pets. She's also a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church. She writes the Staff of Asclepius blog. She's also a new author and editor with Megalithica Books. If you would like to be notified when Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul: Magic Practitioners Living with Disabilities, Addiction, and Illness will be available please email her at tara.miller21 (at) gmail.com Donations for the blog can also be sent through PayPal to the same email.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mirage358 Jason White

    That is really cool! I wonder if the translation software could be combined with this technology: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/05/gloves-gesture-computing/

    The usefulness would come down to computing power, as I’m sure the gloves above provide for more granular data with less pre-processing than the colorful lycra gloves, but would the lycra gloves would provide for more flexibility and ease of movement.

  • Ursyl

    A translator that a Sign user can wear on their hands!

    Brilliant!

  • http://www.fireborngloves.com/ fireborn gloves

    This is truly a very great invention! With this one, anyone will be able to understand the deaf mutes.

  • Ocean

    As a Deaf person myself who has been signing for over 30 years, while I found the video interesting and the idea of such gloves intriguing, I cannot say I am all that impressed with this concept.

    I suspect that the people involved with the development of this invention are hearing individuals with a limited understanding of the linguistics of sign language and thus a lack of understanding as to why and how gloves will have considerable limitations in translation.

    First of all, from what I saw in the video…what the gloves were translating was not actual sign language – it was fingerspelled words. In another words, it was merely translating manually spelled English into text. While fingerspelling is incorporated into sign languages (each country has its own sign language…here in the USA we use American Sign Language or ASL; in Australia they use Auslan, which is Australian Sign Language), sign language is far more than just fingerspelling. However, I did not see any examples of true signing in the video.

    The second and larger problem is that appears to be a common misconception that sign language is “all about the hands.” As a matter of fact, the hands make up only one aspect of the grammar and syntax of sign language. Facial expression is a significant part of it also, as is body language, directional movement, placement, speed of the signs, etc. To merely think that one can get a full translation of the message merely from a pair of gloves is missing the overall components of sign language. It’s far more complex than this.

    Last, but not least…these gloves seem to convey the impression that sign language is merely a manual component of the printed language/spoken language, and its just a matter of converting it. This demonstrates a lack of understanding and respect for sign language as a language in its own right. Any attempt to create a translation device has to take into consideration a literal translation of the signs may not necessarily convey the accurate meaning what is being said. For example if I sign “sunrise wakeup see thrill” another Deaf person understands this to mean “It was truly a beautiful inspiring moment for me to wake up and watch the sun rise this morning.” But are these gloves going to be able to recognize that difference in the languages, comprehend the true meaning of the signs, and be able to make an accurate translation?

    I highly doubt it.

    Personally, I would rather put my hands in the eyes of human capabilities, than rely on this type of technology.


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