For those who are hard of hearing, products such as MotionSavvy, founded by a team of students from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and Solar Ear, a solar-powered hearing aid battery, are playing a significant role in improving the quality of life for those with disabilities.
With so much development taking place in this realm, the wearable device that has recently given us food for thought is the wireless SignLanguageGlove which is the work of MA in Computational Arts graduate Hadeel Ayoub. Developed to improve communication between people with different disabilities, the smart glove is able to recognise hand movements and convert them into relevant text.
So how does it work? Much like Google Translate, the smart glove has been designed to help hard of hearing users make themselves understood by those who can’t usually interpret sign language. The glove’s circuit is comprised of flex sensors, an accelerometer, a microcontroller board, and a four digit graphic numerical display capable of translating sign language gestures into visual words and displaying them onto the screen. The five flex sensors attached to the glove correspond to the five fingers, detecting bends and curvatures then reporting the values to a serial monitor.
On the prototype, the Goldsmith student who won an Innovation and Entretreneurship Prize back in 2015, shared, “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. The prototypes each have a new additional feature, an LED light, and a speaker for example, that took me one step closer to my goal”.
Ayoub followed her first prototype with a second prototype that was better, faster and more durable, with smaller hardware and more efficient software. She also incorporated a smaller microcontroller and smaller flex sensors and redesigned the software to allow text to scroll on a screen, deleting the old and adding the new.
On her third prototype, Ayoub incorporated a text-to-speech chip. With much of the glove’s hardware sewn into the lining, Ayoub revealed that, “I didn’t want all the wires to intimidate users, making them feel the glove will be complicated to use or really fragile.” She adds, “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.”
With the fourth version in the works, Ayoub is looking to include a smartphone and a tablet app which can receive the glove’s output over WiFi. The glove will also brag capabilities that will allow real-time translation of sign language into text in various languages. The final version, expected to cost around £255 to produce, will improve the glove’s accuracy with the introduction of a motion sensor for better mapping. Ayoub also plans to develop a smaller version of the glove to fit children. A great idea, but the challenge for Ayoub will be in minimising the hardware.
With so much potential in this field, Ayoub’s device is proof that wearables can be more than just fitness trackers, they can have the potential to make a positive impact on an individual’s life in more ways than one.