Sign Language Rings Convert Gestures To Speech

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gfr signWhen I was a kid, I used to have an irrational nagging fear that I would, at some point in my life, be left in a room full of deaf people who couldn’t understand what I was talking about. As an adult, the fear is still there, but deaf people have been replaced by people in a foreign country. But thankfully, technology will always be there to allay all irrational fears, while making rational fears much more commonplace. The Sign Language Ring, winner of the 2013 RedDot Design Award, sounds like it could feasibly be the epitome of translation-themed tech. So long as you don’t mind wearing a little bit of smart jewelry. And it’ll be a while before we can start beaming ideas into each other’s brains, so gets your fingers nimble.

Here’s how the rings work, in a nutshell. There are three detatchable rings that are worn on the the thumb and first two fingers of each hand, as well as a bracelet. As the user signs out whatever they want to say, the translation is then spoken through a digitized voice that comes from the bracelet. I’m not sure if it works real time or not, but that’s still some pretty amazing stuff. And that’s not all.

The gesture-to-speak aspect works fine when the hearing-impaired person wants to talk to someone else, but what about vice versa? The bracelet carries the double duty of turning sound into text that runs across an LED display. It seems like the only thing these guys have left to do is actually make people hear again. Take a look at a few of the photos of the device below.

sign language ring

sign language ring

sign language ring

Hell, if that bracelet also told time, I’d wear it as a watch, even without knowing sign language. I like jet-black designs. I’m a simple person who likes technical watches. Their design was inspired by Buddhist prayer beads, which definitely don’t have speaking capabilities.

In case you were wondering if flipping your middle finger or making devil horns could be recognized by the device, you’re in luck. Users are able to add their own customizable gestures for whatever word they choose. Got some nerdy deaf friends who know Klingon? Here’s a future Christmas present.

We’ve seen bulky gloves and camera devices that have translated sign language, but I kind of think this one is the best for everyday use in any location. Well, maybe not at a concert. Or a funeral. “It’s alive!”


  1. Piñata Oblongata says:

    Geez, please do a little research before you write something up like this. Firstly, some terminology: “translation” refers to porting languages from written text – the word you are looking for is “interpretation”. Deaf people do not like to be called “hearing impaired” – use deaf or “hard-of-hearing”. You wouldn’t like it if I summed up your entire humanity as something you can’t do, say, calling you “skate-boarding impaired”, simply because I think everyone should be able to skateboard. You’ll find that most deaf and HoH folk are very much NOT “impaired” in any way.

    Now to the device, and why such things are likely dreamt up by non-signers: Sign language interpreting, as any terp will tell you, is only 50% (or less) about what a person’s hands are doing. Facial expression modifiers (especially), where a person places a sign in the 3D space around their body, what they are doing with the rest of their body, the speed of their gestures, the context of what they are saying based on what they’ve previously said and other things such a device would never be able to detect and interpret as a coherent whole, are all part of sign language.

    Also, there is often no direct equivalent (or definitive equivalent) between a single sign and an English word, as people so often think there is, mostly because of the context problem. The English words a terp will choose to convey the meaning of a signed communication are based on so many socially determined and intangible things you can’t computerise, meaning the same sign(s) may be interpreted completely differently in many different contexts, that no device can or will ever replace human interpretation. “Signed English” and finger-spelling English words is incredibly slow and painful to perform and to watch and far inferior to proper sign language (not to mention arbitrarily difficult for a deaf person).

    If you think you can slap a couple of accelerometers on someone’s hands and interpret the data from someone signing into English like any native English user would speak, you clearly don’t know the first thing about sign language. Such a device wouldn’t even work as well as using Google Translate for an online conversation, and if you’ve ever tried that, you’ll know its pitfalls. The only saving grace of this device is that it can be customised to output certain things based on certain movements, which could make it useful for saying a very limited set of things in an emergency for a deaf person, but they would likely just be better off typing it out on their smartphone they already have, rather than buying an expensive piece of tech they would barely ever want to rely on.

    • Kimberly Toles says:

      I find your response very negative. Ideas have to be started somewhere. They wouldn’t have come up with the video phones without somewhere to start. I am a CODA the deaf in general would not use a word like impaired anyway. Just because you have a high and mighty attitude doesn’t mean that all the “deafies” do. Most appreciate the fact that someone is trying to communicate with them. Based on your response I would assume that either you are hearing interpreter or a very snobby self righteous “deafie”

    • David says:

      Thank you very much for this comment!!!! i want to show these to my deaf teacher and i want to know what he has to say about it. i personally really really hate even the small idea of having these. why not just learn the language!!!!!?

  2. Gemma says:

    Spot on Pinata Oblongata!

    Here is the proof:

    Co-operation Agreement between World Federation of the Deaf and International Federation of Hard of Hearing People on 18th October 2013 –

    Article 2 – Terminology
    Both organisations recognise and respect the right individuals with hearing losses ranging from mild to severe to profound to regard themselves as either “deaf” or “hard of hearing” and both organisations agree to recognise the term “deaf” or “hard of hearing” in their official termiologies. Both organisations agree that the term “hearing impaired” is not an appropriate term and deaf amd hard of hearing individuals should not be identified under this single category.

    With the two words I noticed in your blog and these definitions are the correct:

    Translation defines the process of translating words or text from one language to another.

    Interpret defines the translate orally or into sign language the words of a person speaking different language.

    Now onto my opinion of this so called “Sign Language Ring” technology may be worth the try but its lame and the inventor here clearly have no idea of the abilities in sign language. The sign language grammar, structure and expression are lot deeper than technology can reach. The techology is always meant for limited and never will ever match the same mind of a deaf human beings who are more advanced with the sign language.

  3. Justin says:

    I wanna to sign up for this product. Where can I get it?

  4. Sandy M says:

    I am the mother of a Non-verbal Autistic 14 year old young man. I agree with the previous commentators regarding the seemingly over simplification of Sign Language. Initially, I thought maybe this would be helpful for my son, as he uses what is commonly called “Baby Signs” to communicate his basic needs, when his iPad is not readily available, or when he is frustrated. But, looking more closely at the rings, I think he would find them irritating, would play with them and loose them, and I can just imagine their price. I think we will stick to the iPad and the many great Speaking apps that are coming out.

  5. caro says:

    Out of all inventions for translating ASL- this one is probably the best one I’ve ever read about.

    Several things, though…

    I’m curious whether if it can recognize the difference between ‘1’ and ‘x’?

    I’m a bit puzzled that only first three fingers have rings while ring finger and little finger don’t. How can it recognize the difference between ‘u’ and ‘b’?

    Yes, ASL and any sign language are very complicated. IF it is possible for the rings to have a high accuracy of understanding signs, that’d be great! But if we sign in pure ASL order, and if it translates word by word, then it’ll sound weird in English, grammatical-wise. If we sign in pure asl grammatical order, it’d sound like “how you? I fine. I finish go to store and buy pillow that big black soft.” It’d make us sound not so smart. :/

    If we want to sound like we’re making sense in English, then we’d have to sign in exact English order, which isn’t natural for ASL.

    Also, I wonder if it can be personalized for individuals? My accent is different than, let’s say, a deaf person from Minnesota, a deaf person from Alberta Canada, etc. And even in my region, I still sign a bit differently for some words.

    One thing I’d want to see is that the display can type out what it was translating for me. I want to make sure it’s translating my message correctly. Right now, it doesn’t allow that- I’d have no idea what the rings are saying, whether if they’re making sense.

    But I’d like to keep bracelet to have it translate people’s voice, so I can type back what I want to say. That’d be very useful and more realistic for now.

    Someday in future, YEAH that technology would be very successful!!

    ((and btw fyi, Nick Venable, the author of this post-, it’s politically correct to call us deaf or hard of hearing, NOT hearing impaired. AND don’t call signs ‘gestures’. Gestures and signs are completely different things.))

  6. Kim Marie Nicols says:

    Sign Language Rings?!? I wonder how accurate
    the interpretations will be, since rings are not worn on every finger,
    and they will miss the subtly of facial expressions and body positions
    that are so integral to American Sign Language. A voice
    to text bracelet is also an interesting idea and sleek design, but the
    accuracy of voice recognition has a long way to go. (By the way, the
    pictures demonstrating the rings are unlike any signs I have ever seen.)

  7. Kimberly Wilson says:

    This is an amazing invention. I am FOR anything that facilitates language.

    That said, a lot of deaf people don’t want to hear. They simply don’t want to. Also, after a certain age, the part of the brain dedicated to speech/hearing seems to atrophy if not used, making hearing (and speaking) harder in older populations (I’m talking 17 years old), as seen in the case of persons who get cochlear implants after about the age of 5.

    The bigger issue of all, though, is that even if a deaf person could miraculously hear and speak perfectly, he/she wouldn’t know English (or any other language for that matter) and learning a language in adulthood is a crap shoot based on how dedicated they are to the task. It’s really hard.