Good Thinking

Uni allows deaf and hearing to communicate naturally

Uni translates sign language to sound and text
Uni translates sign language to sound and text
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Uni was developed by MotionSavvy
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Uni was developed by MotionSavvy
Uni translates sign language to sound and text
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Uni translates sign language to sound and text
Users can add new gestures and words to a database
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Users can add new gestures and words to a database
Users can add new gestures and words to a database
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Users can add new gestures and words to a database

People who are deaf or hard of hearing are constantly met with the challenge of communicating, since most non-deaf people don't understand sign language. But modern technology is once again offering new solutions for old issues, and this time it comes in the shape of Uni, which uses motion gesture recognition to translate sign language to audio, and spoken word to text, in real time.

According to Uni's developers, a team of deaf and hard of hearing engineers from Rochester Institute of Technology with design and programming experience in companies such as Nintendo, Microsoft, Railcomm and ZVRS, there are 370 million deaf people in the world, and they interact with another 3.7 billion people. In order to communicate with those who cannot read sign language, deaf people may have to resort to frustrating or inefficient methods like typing out notes on a smartphone or quickly scribbling thoughts with pen and paper.

"We want to open up the rest of the world to the deaf community and give them the opportunity to go about their lives with confidence and accomplish dreams that were once thought to be impossible," says Ryan Hait-Campbell, CEO and co-founder of MotionSavvy. "Uni could make the difference for a deaf person getting paid minimum wage as a retail backroom stocker to earning a six-figure salary as an investment banker."

The Uni package comprises a tablet, a case with integrated motion tracking capabilities, and a mobile app. As the user performs sign language, he or she can see themselves through a mirror image that provides live-time feedback of their signing.

Users can add new gestures and words to a database
Users can add new gestures and words to a database

The motion sensor technology is powered by LEAP motion, which captures the gestures and allows them to be converted into voice. As sign language has variations, Smart Recognition allows users to train the system to recognize different gestures by adding new signs and words to the MotionSavvy Sign Language Database. This collaborative aspect of Uni will expand the database and provide more accurate translations as more users take it up.

Pressing the Listen button in the app converts the spoken reply from the hearing person into text onscreen. Currently the system works with Dell's Venue 8 Pro tablet only (supplied), but there are plans for Android and iOS compatibility.

The company has just launched a campaign on Indiegogo to further develop Uni and bring it to market. The system is expected to retail for US$499, but early bird backers can make significant savings by pledging $198 ($99 now and $99 at shipping). If all goes to plan, MotionSavvy expects to start shipping in the latter half of 2015.

The video below illustrates how the Uni system works.

Sources: MotionSavvy , Indiegogo

MotionSavvy introduces Uni - a two way communication tool for the deaf and hearing

4 comments
Maximo Beltran
How is this different from typing it on a regular keyboard? And voice recognition is already on every mobile device.
sk8dad
Typing = greater control over verbiage and language subtleties. Signing = potentially faster and less intrusive. Though, I do wonder what the accuracy is in poor lighting conditions. Would a disco ball inadvertently cause you to offend someone?
Slowburn
Typing would crimp the style of people using sign language as their mother language.
noteugene
I applaud the effort but what kind of sense does this make? Most hearing impaired individuals can speak just fine as that most hearing losses occur later in life. Not everyone who is deaf is born deaf. Does a deaf person need this to speak to you? The majority would not. You would need it to speak to them. Is everybody else going to buy one? Wouldn't it just be easier to buy a used cell phone off Craiglist & speak into your phone and your words be transcribed into text? Who comes up with this stuff? Oh I know. Hearing engineers. A better way to help the deaf would be to update the ADA laws which were established in the 70's. 50 years ago...before e mail or computers or cell phones were ever heard of. Everybody & I mean everybody including Uncle Sam says ...give us a call. A deaf person can not collect his pension if he/she was fortunate enough to get a job because your company says...call this number and REFUSES to communicate in any other way. A deaf person can not collect unemployment after paying into the system for 16 years because the unemployment office after you e mailing them a few times and them e mailing you back, says no, we can't send e mail, you have to call. Your computer goes on the fritz, you click "contact us" and there is no street address or e mail address. Any company, any website no matter how much money you want to give them for a product or service when listing "contact us" info just list a phone nbr, nothing else. You spend a few weeks saving enough to buy a mower, it goes bad the second time you use it...sticker on the mower say's, for parts or service...call this nbr. You spend a few years saving up, studying tv's and computers, takes you years to put a system together, you research video cards etc. You get all hooked up for high definition tv to only then discover that closed captioning will only work with the lowest possible setting. No hdmi hook ups for you. No sir, you can't even get 720p. 4k? Are you kidding? And it took you so long that by the time you figure that out (while hooking up) that its too late to return anything. All that time/money wasted. You may as well have bought a used 30 year old tv at a garage sale. You watch tv commercials Uncle Sam telling you to get life insurance (and you know by reading the paper you'll be fined if you don't get it) with the commercial saying...for insurance (you have to get), call this number. No street address, no e mail address, nothing. "Get somebody else to call for you". Hell no! I'm tired of being an inconvenience to everybody else especially my aging parents. Your out in the middle of nowhere and your credit card stops working, can't get gas. Can't call anybody. Get home to find out your credit card company updated their credit cards with out telling you with "new security features", to activate this card....call this nbr. How in the hell am I going to be able to "call this number" when I'm out in the middle of no where? And you just know that you were going to someone's funeral & were out of gas. You get a notification from your home insurer or bank or doctor or dentist or plumber to immediately "call this number". No street address, no e mail address, nothing. You get notifications in the mail to receive this service or rate to "call this number". It took me 5 weeks to get my credit card activated. And this after me using the same card for 15 years and crawling their tree more times than I care to remember informing them that I could not call. They have a folder thick as a phone book of my e mails, they know my e address & of my disability but refuse to communicate with me in text. Tv went out the other day, 14 months old, my credit card company won't even send me a receipt of the purchase unless I call. Warranty would cover the cost of repair but they insist I call first. So, no more TV. They send several e mails stating they can't send e mails. It's not that they can't, it's that they won't. Yeah that's GMCard.com. Doesn't look like they are going to mail me the receipt either without a call. Told them that I couldn't/wouldn't that I was going to sue them instead. I've just about had enough of this "call us, we can't e mail" business. The ADA laws state that the hearing impaired have the right to choose how they are to communicate with you, not that you can dictate how you are going to, or I should say, how you are not going to communicate with them. EVERYBODY dictates how they are not going to communicate with the deaf. I've been trying to collect my pension for 2 years. Never did collect a penny in unemployment. Not supposed to have to pay property taxes either but I have never been able to receive that benefit because the courthouse won't tell me what I have to do. Oh sure, a lot of gum flapping when I go to the courthouse but what good does that do me? Never an advancement on my job no matter how hard or how long I worked there because job openings were " word of mouth". And every job posting contained the clause " must have excellent listening skills." Try having a problem of any kind & even if you do manage to get e mail to someone it either takes days/weeks for someone to get back to you or more than likely the response will be "call this number" even if the very first thing you state in your mail is that you are hearing impaired, can't call. Forget about going to the movies or a drive thru. Although read a couple years ago that someone finally came around on new movie releases. That some body was going to try cc. Don't see what it shouldn't be mandatory for all new movie releases. Wear some 3d glasses made out of cardboard, the hearing won't even know its there. I had to pay my whole working career to pay for wheel chair ramps and bathroom stalls but I don't see anybody passing the hat for cell phones that are designed for the deaf. If something is made, again, the deaf have to pay for it....the one's who can least afford to. The microphone icon in a buried menu tree is not something that a supervisor has the time or patience to find. It should be the first icon on a phone. Going to school? College? Forget it. They are supposed to accommodate the deaf. The accommodation seems to be restricted to one going to the city's HR director once a year for a pep talk and who has a clue what they are saying? Should at least 1 person in the city be required to speak into a cell phone, have their words transcribed into text posted to say an I pad I'm holding so I can get help yearly? Sure it should, but nope, not 1 person. You have your car stolen, forget about calling the police. I filled out a report, e mailed it in about a year ago, haven't received a response. The hearing professionals (by the which I mean everyone that can hear) and knows more about deafness than I do (according to them) in spite of my nearly 4 decades of gainful employment in that area, have all kinds of advice, none of which work. I won't bother with a list. Collecting disability via e mail? Forget it. The deaf have to "call this number". I never did understand how I've lost all credibility as a person after I lost my sense of hearing..never have. I'm not trustworthy, I can't work, I don't know anything, I can't think, I can only date the deaf ladies, I can't drive, I can't get insured, I can't get service of any kind, I can't buy a part, I can't e mail Best Buy for an inquiry, I can't contact any on line company or hardly any, I cant file a police report, contact emergency personnel, go to the movies, go through a drive through. If I want something done, I have to do it, I have to drive to where ever to get my message across. Good luck with not calling a lawyer. I've come up with a few of my own ideas. I've had a lot of time to think about it, other than it just being a fleeting spur of the moment thought. Don't let any company possess a license of any kind until they are set up to deal with the hearing impaired and start fining companies that refuse to abide by the accessibility laws and stop this "call us" nonsense. My e mail to the fire department or police or hospital should get an immediate response the same as your call. An apostrophe * (or some such) precluding an e mail heading could be a universal mark that the communication is from the hearing impaired and should be treated the same as an incoming call. People are sitting in front of their computers all day, c'mon. If the spammers want to flub things up, track them down, toss them in jail. Going to court? uh-uh, forget it. You have to pay for your own interrupter. If you manage to e mail the courthouse a week in advance and explain to the clerk who might talk to the judge that he/she can just speak into their phone or notebook or I pad, you get there before everybody else and when you are called to the bench it is only then that the judge thinks to power on his notebook. Then you are told after 3-4 minutes boot up time, I'll handle your case later, meaning after everybody else at the end of the day. S***w that, I just went home. Sit there and wait for hours. Or get another judge who says, "You can't go to driving school because you can't hear". Not even aware that I could sit at home and take the class online. And oh yeah shes making 120 k a year. Doesn't know the first thing about the ADA laws. Took 2 years to be able to drive after loosing hearing not that I didn't have a lisc but because of the insurance companies. it took me a while to convince them that I was probably a better driver due to the loss as that I could concentrate like crazy, nothing distracted me. Not a problem for the hearing impaired to get liscensed and insured now, I'd like to think I had at least something to do with that. I raised enough caine about it. That the professionals advice pertaining to companies and uncle sam is to use a tdy device. You ever use one? Dinky screen even dinkier keyboard almost impossible to follow a conversation but that's what is INSISTED that I communicate on. You get your latest model cell phone, I pads, notebooks, tvs, whatever you want but the world insist that I use an outdated tdy device. Not their problem that I can't always type what I want to say in 30 seconds or less and am automatically disconnected. And it doesn't matter how important the phone call is. Took me years but I finally figured out how to use my computer screen and regular sized keyboard for making relay calls. Oh I was in heaven. For a few months. Then Obama stopped funding to relay centers because the manager wouldn't turn over the contents of the conversations. Did the president tell the hearing world that they could no longer make phone calls unless he could listen in on YOUR phone conversations? No he didn't. I mean, he's doing it anyway & he could anyway to the deaf. Is telling the deaf that relay calls would no longer be funded really necessary? Isn't that comparable to kicking the crutches out from under somebody? The ones who need help the most get kicked in the teeth BY THE PRESIDENT. He should be tossed in jail for that. That may not be your thinking but you loose your sense of hearing for just a few days- your thinking would come around. The phone was invented for the deaf but it seem's everyone else benefits but us. The tech is here, has been for years. No one being forced to put it together and the only ones designing the phones are the "hearing" engineers". 37 million deaf people and not one of these companies can consult with a deaf person to ask what they think how could a phone be designed? I'd consult for free, you wouldn't be able to keep them on the shelf's. E mail? screen flash/vibrate, different colors/vibrations per friend. Speaker icon first. Type or speak whatever you want, save it to a box before making a call. I call anyone that is is either deaf or able to hear. Say the social security office. Work on enforcement of the ADA laws, then sure...go ahead and build a sign language box which relatively few deaf individuals need. If you are not capable of signing sign language and that fluently...how is that going to help?