These gloves let you ‘hear’ sign language

July 2nd, 2020 by An estimated half a million Americans with hearing impairments use American Sign Language (ASL) every day. But ASL has one shortcoming: While it allows people who are deaf to communicate with one another, it doesn’t enable dialogue between the hearing and the nonhearing. Researchers at UCLA have developed a promising solution. It’s a translation glove. The glove, which slips onto your hand like any other glove, features stretchy, polyester-wrapped wires that can track the positions of your fingers. Within a second, an onboard processor can translate those finger movements to one of more than 600 signs with a remarkable 98.63% accuracy. The results are beamed via Bluetooth to a companion app on your phone, which reads the words aloud. Jun Chen, the assistant professor at UCLA’s Department of Engineering who led the research, tells us he was inspired to create the glove after being frustrated when trying to talk to a friend with hearing impairment. He looked at other solutions that had been proposed to translate ASL and found them imperfect. Vision recognition systems need the right lighting to make fingers legible. Another proposed solution, which can track the electrical impulses through your skin to read signs, requires the precise placement of sensors to get proper measurements. Read more: Fast Company

Glove turns sign language into text for real-time translation

July 13th, 2017 by Handwriting will never be the same again. A new glove developed at the University of California, San Diego, can convert the 26 letters of American Sign Language (ASL) into text on a smartphone or computer screen. Because it’s cheaper and more portable than other automatic sign language translators on the market, it could be a game changer. People in the deaf community will be able to communicate effortlessly with those who don’t understand their language. It may also one day fine-tune our control of robots. ASL is a language all of its own, but few people outside the deaf community speak it. For many signing is their only language, as learning written English, for example, can be difficult without having the corresponding sounds to go with it. “For thousands of people in the UK, sign language is their first language,” says Jesal Vishnuram, the technology research manager at the charity Action on Hearing Loss. “Many have little or no written English. Technology like this will completely change their lives.” When they need to communicate with people who are not versed in ASL, their options are limited. In the UK, someone who is deaf is entitled to a sign language translator at work or when visiting a hospital, but at a train station, for example, it can be incredibly difficult to communicate with people who don’t sign. In this situation a glove that can translate for them would make life much easier. Read more: New Scientist

Understanding the amazing complexity of sign language

June 23rd, 2017 by Most people are familiar with sign language, the system that deaf people use to communicate. What fewer may know is that there are many different sign languages around the world, just as there are many different spoken languages. So how does the grammar of sign language work? Unlike in spoken languages, in which grammar is expressed through sound-based signifiers for tense, aspect, mood and syntax (the way we organise individual words), sign languages use hand movements, sign order as well as body and facial cues to create grammar. This is called non-manual activity. To find out whether these cues are comprehensible to signers and non-signers of a country, my team of deaf and hearing linguists and translators conducted two studies. The results, which will be published in July, demonstrate the incredible complexity of sign language. Read more: The Conversation

How to translate Shakespeare into American Sign Language

November 25th, 2016 by There are few lines in literature as memorable as “To be, or not to be—that is the question.” Uttered in the third act of “Hamlet”, the soliloquy offers a poignant examination of whether it is better to quietly bear the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” or to die, and “end the heartache”. The line has been delivered innumerable times across the world, and each actor offers a unique interpretation through pauses, tone and gesture. When David Tennant performed the line with the Royal Shakespeare Company, he spoke softly, with one long pause in the middle of the line, as though talking to himself. But when Rory Kinnear took on the role at the National Theatre, he said the line with a quiet nervousness, breaking it up with three separate pauses. The soliloquy has been rendered in a myriad number of ways in American Sign Language, too. ASL masters—who translate English into ASL for theatre—must consider the same questions of feeling and interpretation. ASL is a distinct language with its own vocabulary and grammar, not a signed version of English (which is why it also mutually incomprehensible with British Sign Language). For this line in “Hamlet”, the translator might choose to focus on the character’s struggle to make a decision about his fate. He might have the actor consider whether to grow up or give up, followed by the sign “problem”, to indicate that the difficulty lay in making a decision. Read more: The Economist

There’s a Philly Sign Language Accent

December 6th, 2015 by Speech with a drawl, twang, clipped consonants, broad vowels, slurred words or extra diphthongs might give away that the speaker is from the American South, Boston, the Midwest or elsewhere. The spice that a certain region may lend to spoken language can even be strong enough to flavor non-audible language as well. Indeed, American Sign Language (ASL) has its own accents. And like its audible counterpart, one of the strongest regional accents in ASL is that of Philadelphia residents, reports Nina Porzucki for PRI. Researchers based at the University of Pennsylvania are documenting Philly ASL and asking exactly what makes it special. Leading the effort is linguistics lecturer Jami Fisher, who has a unique connection to the language: Her parents and her brother are all deaf, so she grew up signing in Philadelphia. She says she doesn’t sign with her hometown's accent, but she does understand it. "When most people talk about a dialect, in spoken languages and sign languages too, a lot of what they center on are lexical differences, differences in words," Fisher tells PRI. "For example, the sign for hospital is exceptionally different from what standard ASL would be, among other things." She says that someone from another part of the country wouldn’t recognize some of the signs used by Philly ASL signers. Read more: Smithsonian‎

Apes May Be Much Closer To Human Speech Than We Realized

August 17th, 2015 by Koko has been called the "world's most intelligent gorilla." The beloved 44-year-old western lowland gorilla uses over 1,000 signs from American Sign Language to communicate, and has gained a sophisticated understanding of spoken English through the help of a team of psychologists and researchers who have spent decades training her. Now, a new study is suggesting that the brainy ape may be closer to verbal communication than we've thought. Published last month in the journal Animal Cognition, the research finds that gorillas may be capable of complex vocal behavior that defies previous beliefs about their communicative abilities. Read more: Huffington Post

Sign language approved as a foreign language in N.J. high schools

August 11th, 2015 by Taking sign language in high school will now count toward students' foreign language requirements for graduation, under a new law signed Monday by Gov. Chris Christie. The bill (S1760) requires high schools to let students fulfill their foreign language graduation requirement by taking sign language courses instead of spoken languages like Spanish or French. Read more: nj.com