Over 70 million deaf and/or mute people worldwide use sign languages to communicate. These are beautiful languages that are easily understandable by those who are fluent in them. Unfortunately, like any other language, it is difficult for people to follow sign language if they aren't fluent in it. Unlike travelers to foreign countries, this language barrier affects the users even in their native countries.
Thanks to undergraduate students Thomas Pryor and Navid Azodi from the University of Washington, there are now gloves that can transliterate sign language into both speech and text.
These gloves are so innovative that they won their young inventors a Lemelson-MIT “Use it!” Undergraduate Award - along with $10,000!
The SignAloud gloves feature sensors that measure the user's hand position and movement. The gathered data is then sent to a computer via Bluetooth where it is converted to text and speech.
The two young inventors discovered a shared interest in problem solving and invention. They also had an interest in communication; Azodi had to rely on non-verbal communication until age seven.
Azodi and Pryor's goal was to help deaf and mute people "better communicate with the rest of the world without changing the way they already interact with each other." As Azodi says in the video: "Access to communication is a basic, fundamental human right."
Besides helping the user communicate with those who don't speak their language, Azodi and Pryor envision other applications for their innovative device. They believe the gloves would be useful in learning American Sign Language (ASL), as well as for communicating with stroke patients.
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