Students develop portable sign-language translator


June 4, 2012

The MyVoice prototype

The MyVoice prototype

Sign Language is definitely a boon to deaf people when it comes to communicating with each other, or with non-deaf people who are trained in the system. If a hearing person doesn’t regularly deal with the deaf, however, then there's an obvious communication barrier. In order to address that situation, a group of engineering technology and industrial design students from the University of Houston have created MyVoice – a prototype American Sign Language (ASL) translator.

MyVoice is a portable device that incorporates a microphone, speaker, soundboard, video camera and monitor. The idea is that it would be propped up on a hard level surface, where it would use its camera to “read” the hand gestures of a deaf person. A microprocessor would recognize the individual signs, and would then audibly “say” the message to the hearing person via the soundboard and speaker.

Conversely, it could also listen to a message spoken by a hearing person, which it would then translate into a series of images of ASL hand signs, displayed on its screen. In this way, it could be used by both deaf and non-deaf people, to understand one another.

So far, it is only capable of translating the phrase “A good job, Cougars.” Even that was a lot of work, as each of the signs in that phrase consisted of 200 to 300 images that had to be recognized and/or reproduced. It was enough, however, to win the device first place among student projects at the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) - Gulf Southwest Annual Conference.

Although the students have since graduated, it is hoped that work will continue on my MyVoice. “We got it to work, but we hope to work with someone to implement this as a product,” said team member Sergio Aleman. “We want to prove to the community that this will work.”

An already-existing product known as the AcceleGlove works as a one-way deaf-to-hearing translator. It uses built-in accelerometers to determine the signs being formed by the wearer’s hand, and expresses those in written text or spoken words.

Source: University of Houston

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

Great!! We need more innovations like this! Syabas! Well tought out!

Now we need the global translator, from sign to voice or to braille. And vice versa. And we need also to put these apps into the smart phone or as a simple device that attaches to the phone.

This is the communicator. Wow! These are the truly remarkable innovations. I am now looking forward to the day when i can travel anywhere in the world and i'll be able to communicate with different languages, including sign and braille.


So soon there will be an app for that? Integration into next gen smartphones would be a lot better than a separate device. If I'm interacting with deaf people enough to merit buying the device, I'll just learn sign language since it's more polite. OTOH, if it were available for my smartphone, you'd better believe I would have the app available "just in case" because some communication is better than no communication.

Bryan Paschke

Yes! Yes! Yes!

AAA - American Academy of Acousticians ? - there will be a manufacturer amongst its members or at ts annual convention in San Diego around March.Often If lucky I can sit next to a Sign Language Interpreter who speaks the translation to me then signs my response. They could use this device whilst having a rest, which they need, ideally every 20 minutes. It would be like having recorded music playing when a band takes a break. This is about working in harmony. Please push it forward.

Debbie Jeffrey

Sign language interpreters get $50 an hour and up, yet there's stil a shortage. Lots of work to do here, but a big market.

Captain Obvious
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