Ukrainian students invent gloves that convert sign language into speech

With all the marvelous text-to-speech and speech-to-text technologies currently in our midst, it's surprising to realize just how few of these devices actually serve as assistive devices — particularly for the hearing-impaired. But a new invention from a group of Ukrainian students is set to change all that: They have developed a glove that can translate the movements made by sign language into speech.

Called EnableTalk, the gloves are fitted with flex sensors, touch sensors, gyroscopes and accelerometers — as well as solar cells to increase battery life (talk about attention to detail). It has a built in system that can translate sign language into text and then into spoken words using a text-to-speech engine. And the entire system can work over Bluetooth enabling smartphone connection. The project was a finalist at Microsoft's Imagine Cup held in Sydney Australia, created by the QuadSquad team.

Writing in TechCrunch, Frederic Lardinois explains more:

The team has built a number of prototypes and tested them with sign language-users in the Ukraine. The idea for the project, said team member Osika Maxim, came from interacting with hearing-impaired athletes at the groups' school.

The few existing projects that come close to what EnableTalk is proposing generally cost around $1,200 and usually have fewer sensors, use wired connections and don't come with an integrated software solution. EnableTalk, on the other hand, says that the hardware for its prototypes costs somewhere around $75 per device.

Besides the cost, though, another feature that makes this project so interesting is that users can teach the system new gestures and modify those that the team plans to ship in a library of standard gestures. Given the high degree of variation among sign languages, which also has regional dialects just like spoken language, this will be a welcome feature for users.

This is extremely cool, as it will certainly help to bridge the language gap that separates hearing from non-hearing culture.

There's more at TechCrunch, so check it out.

Top image via TechCrunch.