Every once in a while, we at Lexington stumble across potentially ground-breaking technology that we think will help with cross-cultural communication between the Deaf and the hearing (it’s also pretty cool. Well, it beats using your cell’s notepad, right?). This is one such technological advancement:
Three Ukrainian students invented sensory gloves that work with an app to turn Sign Language into automated speech. The Enable Talk project won first place at Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2012 in Syndey, Australia.
Students on the winning Team “QuadSquad” — Anton Stepanov, Anton Posternikov, and Maxim Osika — beat out 350 students from 75 countries for the gold. Their Enable Talk glove gives deaf and hearing-impaired individuals the ability to communicate with those who don’t know Sign Language.
“A while ago, in the supermarket we saw a cashier having difficulties understanding a speech-impaired person and we thought how useful it would be to have a device to overcome this communication barrier,” the trio wrote in their Imagine Cup entry.
“We were very surprised to find out that no such devices are available on the market. Later, our interaction with hearing-impaired athletes at our school confirmed that such a solution is needed for them to communicate more fully with the world.”
The glove is flexible, easy to use, cheap to produce and battery operated. Each glove has 15 flex sensors. The sensors decipher hand motions in the air.
The glove picks up the hand gestures and the Enable Talk Smartphone app translates the data. The app is wirelessly connected through Bluetooth technology. The team uses Microsoft’s Speech and Bing APIs to translate and play what’s been signed.
The contest’s cash prize of $25,000 will cover more than half of the $40,000 needed to start pre-production. Costs will cover software development and system testing.
The current product prototype retails around $50. In the short future — with the savings and profits that come with mass production — Enable Talk sets will likely be $20 each.