Health & Wellness

From Signs to Speech

A new high-tech glove can translate American Sign Language


By Erika Morris


American bioengineers have designed a new high-tech glove that could help people using American Sign Language (ASL) communicate with hearing people without a translator by translating in real time.

Developed at UCLA, the glove has thin, stretchy sensors along the fingers and thumb that detect motion through electric currents; wireless signals are sent to a smartphone application that translates the signs to spoken and written words and numbers. The prototype glove recognizes 660 signs, with an accuracy rate of nearly 99%. It isn’t able to translate British Sign Language.

On top of making it easier to communicate with non-signers, the goal of the project is partly to inspire more people to learn sign language and to make it easier to teach and learn.

Right now, the glove translates at a rate of one word per second. To make the glove commercially viable, the algorithm will need a faster response time and an expanded vocabulary. UCLA has filed a patent to further develop the technology.

The idea of wearable translation technology isn’t new, but researchers say the glove is the most affordable, comfortable, and lightweight version yet, and prices could go down with mass production. For now, there are only prototypes, but within a few years, researchers are hoping it will be advanced enough for widespread use.

According to the Canadian Association of the Deaf, more than 350,000 Canadians are “profoundly deaf [or] deafened” and 3.21 million are hard of hearing.

Photo: iStock/p_saranya.