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Electric Glove Translates Sign Language into Text Messages | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A teacher uses sign language to speak to her class.AP/Al Behrman

San Francisco, London- US Researchers from the University of California have developed new electric glove that transforms sign language into written texts to appear on smartphones and laptops.

The device consists of a standard sports glove kitted out with nine flexible strain sensors that are placed over different knuckles. When a user bends their fingers or thumb, the sensors stretch, their electrical resistance goes up, and thus signs will be transformed into a written language through a special electronic app.

Motion sensors on the back of the glove work out whether the hand is still or in motion, a necessary step to differentiating similar letters. For example, both the signs for “i” and “j” involve extending just the little finger. But for “i” the hand remains still, whereas to signify “j” you rotate your hand.

All these signals are then sent via Bluetooth to an app on your phone, which will display what you want to say.

Quoting Timothy O’Connor who is working on the technology at the University of California, the New Scientist website reported that the flexible sensors mean that you hardly notice that you are wearing the glove.

That would be an improvement over earlier, similar technology, other translation gloves can have brittle parts and be an effort to use.

Jesal Vishnuram, the technology research manager at the charity Action on Hearing Loss said for thousands of people in the UK, sign language is their first language. Many have little or no written English. Technology like this will completely change their lives, she added.

Beyond translating sign language, O’Connor and his colleagues are also working on using the same techniques to control robots.

“One application in the pipe line is a 3D printed robot hand that we can control using the glove,” says O’Connor.

Being able to control a robotic hand this way could find a use in robotic surgery or for bomb-diffusing robots.