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Speech synthesizer allows users to form spoken words using hand gestures

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February 22, 2012

An experimental new gesture-to-voice synthesizer could allow people without the power of s...

An experimental new gesture-to-voice synthesizer could allow people without the power of speech to 'talk' with their hands (Photo: Johnty Wang, UBC)

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Whether it's people who can't speak, or musicians looking for a new way of expressing themselves, both may end up benefiting from an experimental new gesture-to-voice synthesizer. The system was created at the University of British Columbia, by a team led by professor of electrical and computer engineering Sidney Fels. Users just put on a pair of sensor-equipped gloves, then move their hands in the air - based on those hand movements, the synthesizer is able to create audible speech.

The gloves contain 3D position sensors, which are able to identify each hand's position in space, along with the gestures those hands are making. This information is transmitted to a computer, which has assigned different sounds to different glove postures.

An experimental new gesture-to-voice synthesizer could allow people without the power of s...

The right-hand glove can detect bending motions, and is thus able to produce a variety of consonant sounds when the hand closes, and vowel sounds when it opens. Different consonants can be selected between by making different gestures with that hand, while vowel sounds can be controlled by its horizontal location. The glove's vertical location controls pitch.

Hard stop sounds, such as the consonants "B" and "D," are produced by gesturing with the left-hand glove.

Not only could the system allow people without the power of speech to form audible words, but it could also be used by musicians - in fact, it already has been. Seven different artists have utilized the device so far, doing things such as performing single-person duets, in which their vocal cords supply one voice while their hands (via the synthesizer) supply the other.

According to Fels, it takes about 100 hours for musicians to learn to use the system. Down the road, he believes that the hand-gesture technology could also be applied to other areas, such as the controlling of heavy machinery.

Prof. Fels presented the technology at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, last Saturday. The video below shows the gesture-to-voice synthesizer in use.

Source: UBC

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
4 Comments

They should probably teach it sign language.

Slowburn
22nd February, 2012 @ 05:43 pm PST

I'm thinking that Italians will cause this thing to overload !!

Slaphappy
23rd February, 2012 @ 11:39 am PST

The Robotic singing i find disturbing.

flying Spaghetti monster
23rd February, 2012 @ 11:54 am PST

After reading about Dr. James Kramer (about 20 years ago using an analog strain gages to measure joint movement to make a Talking Glove that did not completely function correctly) I designed and prototyped a flexible linear encoder about 6mm x 6mm x 50mm to be sued as a controller for a completely dexterous prosthetic / robotic hand. Recent updates the encoder can have resolution in the nano range. I fashion the flexible strips and mask on a xerox. Very inexpensive. And since my prototyping the company that manufactured the leeds and photocell sold their business, I have to used smaller components. If assistance is desired please contace me at hotmail.

randolphgarrison1
25th February, 2012 @ 07:46 am PST
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