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One Small Sign Language Glove, One Giant Leap for People with Disabilities

A breakthrough for people with disabilities is on its way – a glove that translates sign language into text and speech. The glove, which has been named SignLaguageGlove, recognizes hand gestures and turns them into text on a scrolling screen. It can also use text-to-speech software to turn the gestures and text into audible content.


sign language glove prototype 33rd Prototype of the SignLanguageGlove


This is a fantastic development for people with spoken language or hearing disabilities, enabling much easier and faster communication with people without disabilities and with people with different disabilities to their own.

The glove was developed by artist and designer, Hadeel Ayob. Hadeel Ayoub recently completed her MA in Computational Arts at Goldsmiths in the university’s Department of Computing. She developed the glove in an endeavor to improve communication between people with different disabilities.

Hadeel Ayoub says, “I had one mission when I started this project and it was to facilitate communication between all kinds of disabilities, eliminating barriers between people who have a visual, hearing or speech impairment.”

In an interview with Motherboard, Ayoub revealed that her motivation behind developing the glove was originally her autistic niece. “I have an autistic niece who is four and doesn’t speak. When I saw her communicating with sign language, I wondered what would happen if she tried to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak the same language. Does that mean that she wouldn’t be able to get through to them?”

This fantastic technology will not only help people with autism, but people with hearing and visual disabilities as well.


How Does The SignLanguageGlove Work?

The glove has 5 flex sensors that correspond to the 5 fingers of a hand. These detect bends and curvatures of the hand as the user signs and reports the values to a serial monitor. Concurrently, an accelerometer is used to detect the orientation of the hand and the direction of pointing fingers.

Using this information, a computer program in the glove identifies the output values of the sensors and accelerometers and works to match them to a series of statements. The most appropriate statement is displayed on the screen and, in the latest version of the glove, read out loud using a text-to-speech chip.


Prototypes and Development


Ayob has created 3 different prototypes with a 4th edition on its way. In each of these developments the hardware was incorporated more smoothly into the glove and the software was improved.

As you can imagine, the first of her prototypes was rather basic and took up a lot of room, at least when compared to her further renditions. It looked basically like a traditional glove for cold weather with a range of wires leading to and from the glove. The glove could only display 4 characters on the screen at a time and it needed to be attached to a computer – not ideal for going to the shop to buy your groceries.


sign language glove prototype 11st prototype of the SignLanguageGlove


The 2nd edition had a more useful design with a smaller microcontroller with a scrolling screen, meaning that words larger than 4 letters could easily be displayed and read. Best of all, the 2nd edition was wireless, increasing everyday accessibility so you easily take it to the supermarket to aid in asking where the milk is.

“I didn’t want all the wires to intimidate users, making them feel the glove will be complicated to use or really fragile,” Hadeel explains. “People tend to lean to the cautious side when approached with new high-tech products which contradicts the main purpose of this glove, which is to help make lives easier.”


sign language glove prototype 22nd Prototype of the SignLanguageGlove


The 3rd edition of the glove has a much sleeker design. The wires are sewn into the glove and once again, the software and hardware got an upgrade. One feature we are excited about is the inclusion of text-to-speech software into the glove, enabling the SignLanguageGlove to read out loud the text that was being produced by the movement of the glove. This adds a whole new level of accessibility to the glove, enabling the glove to be easily used by people with disabilities to communicate directly with people who do not understand sign language without the recipient having to read a small screen.


sign language glove prototype 33rd Prototype of the SignLanguageGlove


The addition of text-to-speech technology also brings down a unique barrier that hasn’t been able to be overcome this easily ever before. This feature allows the blind to hear the deaf – enabling communication not only between people with and without disabilities, but also between people with different disabilities.


What Can We Expect from the Next Glove?

The 4th edition of the glove, which is currently being developed, will include Wi-Fi and smart phone apps to enhance the usability of the glove even further. The apps will allow the output of the glove to be translated into languages other than English, which is currently the only language the glove can be used for. Ayoub speaks Arabic, French and English and wants to enable people with disabilities to do the same if they want to.

“Once I’ve incorporated WiFi and translation features into it the glove will be useful for all – no exclusions as to who the user can reach, wherever, whoever, from any country at any time” says Ayoub.

Ayoub also wants to develop a version of the sign language glove for kids, which will be no easy feat. All the components will need to be scaled down and become lighter so that they will not only fit on a child’s hand but also be an appropriate weight for a child to lift.


How much will the SignLanguageGlove cost?

The 4th prototype is expected to cost approximately US$385 to produce, but Ayoub hopes that people with disabilities will not have to pay for the gloves themselves. Instead, she hopes that government organizations, schools and workplaces will recognize the importance and need for the glove and buy them for workers or students with disabilities.


Learn More


If you’d like to learn more about Ayoub’s SignLanguage Glove, click here to see Goldsmith’s article on her work or visit Ayoub’s blog about the project. Or if you’d like to learn more about other cool applications of text-to-speech technology or discover how to integrate TTS into your next project, contact us here.


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