Two Portuguese designers based in Sydney have come up with a practical idea for facilitating communication between people when sign language is involved. Catarina Araujo and Sofia Santos’ project, still at the development stage and looking for financial backers, taps Leap Motion technology to create a wearable sign language translator to be worn as a necklace.

Leap Motion technology tracks hand movements. The new device translates those tracked movements into words that appear on a screen, not unlike a foreign language expert doing simultaneous interpreting. For those people who can't read sign language, the device could be a great facilitator of interaction, also making life a lot easier for those who can only communicate through hand gestures.

The duo has been selected for the second phase of the TEDx Youth competition in Sydney. The winners get a mentor for three months to help them develop an idea. Twelve teams have been selected, but only four will make it.

“The design is a concept that translates our idea of a low-cost and attractive device that a person can wear as a necklace. This way they can wear it all the time, making the interaction more natural,” they told Gizmag.

Similar devices have been developed elsewhere, such as EnableTalk by the Ukraine’s quadSquad, which consists of sensor-fitted gloves and software to convert hand signals into speech in real time. Additionally, students at the University of Houston have created MyVoice, a portable device that translates hand gestures into an audio message.

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