UCLA bioengineers have designed a glove-like device that can translate American Sign Language into English speech in real time though a smartphone app. Their research is published in the journal Nature Electronics.
“Our hope is that this opens up an easy way for people who use sign language to communicate directly with non-signers without needing someone else to translate for them,” said Jun Chen, an assistant professor of bioengineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering and the principal investigator on the research. “In addition, we hope it can help more people learn sign language themselves.”
The system includes a pair of gloves with thin, stretchable sensors that run the length of each of the five fingers. These sensors, made from electrically conducting yarns, pick up hand motions and finger placements that stand for individual letters, numbers, words and phrases.
The device then turns the finger movements into electrical signals, which are sent to a dollar-coin–sized circuit board worn on the wrist. The board transmits those signals wirelessly to a smartphone that translates them into spoken words a the rate of about one word per second.