With a view to bridge the communication gap for the hearing-and-speech impaired, four engineering students from an Uttar Pradesh college have devised a glove that can convert sign language into speech.
The innovation is still in a rudimentary stage, but promises to be a handy tool. Called Smart Glove, it can be connected to a smartphone via Bluetooth. An app, called Smart Glove Connect, converts the sign language gestures into corresponding speech, taking just a second to process the signals.
The smart glove can be connected to a smartphone via Bluetooth. An app, called Smart Glove Connect, converts the sign language gestures into corresponding speech, taking just a second to process the signals
The glove and the app are the brainchild of four final-year students of Moradabad Institute of Technology’s Electronics and Communications branch — Keshav Mehrotra, Abhishek Tandon, Harmeet Kaur and Khushboo Kashyap. They are developing the glove as a part of their final semester project.
At present the glove can interpret only 8-10 basic sentences and they have designed only one glove — for the right hand — due to lack of time. Their vision of the final product includes a glove for each hands, since sign language involves gestures made by both the hands. They say they will start work on the second one once they are relieved from academics.
No help at hand
Mehrotra says their project is inspired by the innovation of two US students from the University of Washington who last year won a $10,000 prize in a talent hunt for their SignAloud gloves, which can convert American Sign Language (ASL) into speech or text. Tandon said their initial idea was to seek the help of the US students and follow their blueprint.
They put their heart and soul into the project as it was close to their heart. “We could do it because we wanted to,” says Keshav Mehrotra
But the American duo did not respond to emails, Facebook messages and tweets. With no guidance forthcoming from them, the foursome, all in their early 20s, decided to design the glove from scratch. Also read other Tech Meets Bharat stories
Kaur says the team acquired knowhow through the internet and YouTube. The learning curve was difficult since this innovation demanded some skills they didn’t have. But, they put their heart and soul into the project as it was close to their heart. “We could do it because we wanted to,” says Mehrotra. It took them a month of research and they had to learn a bit of sign language to bring the project alive.
The main components of the glove are flex sensors to map the movement of the fingers, an accelerometer, a microcontroller that acts as a processor, a Bluetooth module to transmit the data. It requires to be connected to a smartphone. The app is not yet on a web store. The team intends to seek a patent once the second glove is also ready.
Like languages, sign language too differs from place to place. While the US students’ glove is programmed to translate ASL, the Moradabad students’ glove is synced with the Indian Sign Language.
Also read: The moral imperative and business case for accessibility in technology
Tandon discloses that they have tested the prototype in their college, but not with any speech-impaired person. He adds for them to figure out the issues and fine-tune the product, they need the help of someone who speaks and knows the ISL, but they’re yet to find such a person.
The students have priced the left-hand glove at Rs 2,500. Once they design the glove for the other hand too, the price will double
This report pegged the number of sign language interpreters in India at a mere 250. Compare this with the fact that 71 lakh people in the country are speech-and-hearing impaired (according to the 2011 census).
Lalita Gupta, an Agra-based sign language interpreter, is excited about the students’ innovation. She said the gloves could help empower the mute people of the country by helping them ‘talk’, while adding that they need to keep the price down. Gupta is doing her bit for the speech-and-hearing-impaired by relaying their messages to concerned people over video conferencing.
The students have priced the left-hand glove at Rs 2,500. Once they design the glove for the other hand too, the price will double.
The smart glove may need some tweaking and refining, but if the students can persist with the project, it may enable the speech impaired to get a voice.
Also read: We tested 18 government apps, and most are not fully accessible to the disabled
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