Wulala Technology Co., a Chinese startup, has found a way to commercialize and mass produce a smart glove that can translate sign language into text or audible speech. The glove is worn on the user’s right hand and is paired via Bluetooth to a subscription-based app for smartphone. It incorporates two-way bending sensors in each finger, along with an inertial measurement unit (IMU) in the palm. The sensors track the pose of the fingers, while the IMU tracks the movement and position of the glove in three-dimensional space.
Deaf users start with the gloved hand hanging down at their side, then form a fist to activate the device. When the user is done signing the message, the user will drop the hand, simultaneously bending the fingers and straightening the thumb to let the glove know they’re done. Their message is subsequently relayed through the app in the form of both onscreen text and synthetic speech.
After seeing and listening to that message, a hearing person can speak a response into the phone’s microphone. That response will be displayed both as text and as sign language performed by an animated avatar for the deaf user.
Plans call for the system to eventually be capable of closing the communication gap among people who speak or sign different languages. If the glove wearer were to sign a question in German Sign Language, for instance, the app could conceivably translate that question into English speech and text. When the other (hearing) person verbally responds in English, it could be translated to German text and animated German.
Because the main electronics module is removable, the glove is washable, . One 90-minute charge of its battery is expected to last for at least eight hours of use.