Hear the Hands: Gloves Translate Sign Language into Speech

“Eloquence is the power to translate a truth into language perfectly intelligible to the person to whom you speak.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thanks to four young Ukrainian masterminds, those of us who don’t know sign language will now be able to understand and communicate with the speech and hearing impaired, which affect about 40 million people around the world.

Taking first place at this year’s Microsoft Imagine Cup competition in Sidney, the Ukrainian students presented their hi-tech prototype: gloves that translate sign language into speech.

How it works

Called Enable Talk , the prototype gloves have 15 built-in flex sensors, a micro-controller, and solar cells to extend battery life. The gloves register the wearer’s hand movements, which are transmitted to the micro-controller on the back of the glove. The controller then analyses and translates the motion into text. The text data is then sent via Bluetooth to a text-to-speech engine connected to a mobile device, which translates the text into speech.

With Enable Talk users will be able to program their own hand gestures and even modify the standard ones included in the system – a great feature considering sign language, like spoken language, can vary significantly around the world.

This device is not the first of its kind; there are several similar projects

under development, but they fall short

of the technology offered by

Enable Talk and are far more costly, at about US$1200. The Ukrainian team foresee a retail price of US$400 for a pair of gloves.