Smart Glove Can Translate American Sign Language Into Text

UC San Diego researchers have designed a "smart glove" that can turn sign language into text that can be wirelessly transmitted to mobile devices, all for less than $100.

The glove is outfitted with sensors that stretch over the user's knuckles, detecting the different gestures that represent letters of the American Sign Language alphabet. A small computer on the back of the glove is then able to take that information and transmit it via Bluetooth to a smartphone or laptop, where it is displayed as text.

"We actually used just a sporting glove, like a golf glove," said UC San Diego nano-engineering Ph.D. student Timothy O'Connor, the lead author on a paper published last month describing the glove.

O'Connor said using cheap materials was important for demonstrating the real-world usefulness of this technology. For the stretch sensors, O'Connor said, "The material we're using is printable, which makes it even more low-cost."

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Sign language turned out to be "very handy for advancing our system," O'Connor said. But he said he and his colleagues in Darren Lipomi's lab at UC San Diego see the glove's ability to translate ASL as just one of many potential applications that would rely on finely tuned tracking of subtle hand motions.

"We're looking into applications in virtual reality, and applications in other types of medical fields — maybe the human control of medical robots," said O'Connor.

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Another possibility raised in the researchers' paper is the creation of a smart glove capable of remotely controlling the hand of a bomb-defusing robot.

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