In an effort to further open the lines of communication for people with hearing and speech disabilities, a university student in London is developing a smart glove that converts sign language into text and spoken dialogue. Dubbed the SignLanguageGlove, the wearable device features a handful of sensors to convert hand and finger movements into words, with its creator now looking to add real-time language translation to the mix.

Designer and student at Goldsmiths, University of London Hadeel Ayoub is currently on the third iteration of her smart glove. Equipped with five flex sensors to monitor the bends and curves of each finger and an accelerometer to detect the orientation of the glove, the first experimental version took signs and turned them into visual letters on a screen.

She soon followed up with an improved model that was faster and more robust, featuring smaller, more discreet hardware and text that scrolled on a screen. The latest model features a text-to-speech chip with the hardware sewn into the lining of the glove.

She is now hard at work integrating a language translation function into the system. An Arabic, French and English speaker herself, Ayoub is looking to add Wi-Fi to the glove so that its motion can be relayed wirelessly to smartphones or tablets, where an app would handle the translation. She also plans to add a motion sensor for better mapping and develop a smaller version for children.

Gloves that turn sign language into audible dialogue is a concept that has been explored before. Back in 2009, the open-source AcceleGlove, which was intended for, among other things, interpreting sign language, was released. Then in 2012, a similar set of gloves took out the Microsoft Imagine Cup. But smartphones and tablets have come some way in that time, allowing for fresh takes on the concept.

Goldsmiths says that several companies have approached Ayoub with a view to mass producing the SignLanguageGlove, which would have an estimated cost of around £255 (US$385). But Ayoub says if it does come available as a commercial product, she hopes that schools and businesses will buy them for students, patients and employees with hearing and speech impairments.

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