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.
Read more of Ben Coxworth's Gizmag article HERE.