Every year at the Microsoft Imagine Cup in Sydney, Australia, teams of students from all over the world come together and develop technologies that address the competition’s central theme. This year’s theme was “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems.” In the spirit of this theme, a team of students from the Ukraine called the QuadSquad have built and developed a pair of gloves that translate sign language to speech.
The Ukrainian team has called their invention “EnableTalk” and it uses existing technologies working together to give an inexpensive solution to this tough problem. The EnableTalk gloves use a series of flex sensors, touch sensors, gyroscopes and accelerometers and solar cells to increase battery life. These special gloves uses a text-to-speech “engine,” which is outfitted with preloaded gestures that equal sign language. It also uses Bluetooth technology to connect to a smartphone, thus using the smartphone as the hearing-impaired person’s “voice.”
QuadSquad have created a prototype that has brought the cost from similar solutions from $1,200 to a reasonable $75 per device. This will allow anyone with a hearing impairment to have an opportunity to speak and be understood easily.
This is truly a noble venture for this group of Ukrainian students. It’s surprising that this device wasn’t already invented considering all the text-to-speech devices out there today. A majority of Americans have iPhone or Android devices to enable Siri or Google Voice Search. It’s almost as if these EnableTalk gloves are a cross between the screen manipulating gloves from Minority Report and Nintendo’s PowerGlove but with actual real world applications.