Two University of Washington undergraduates have won a $10,000 prize for their invention of gloves that translate sign language into audible speech, on the spot.
SignAloud wearable technology can recognize hand gestures that correspond to words and phrases in American Sign Language (ASL). Each glove contains sensors that record hand position and movement and send data wirelessly via Bluetooth to a central computer. The computer looks at the gesture data, and then the associated word or phrase is spoken through a speaker.
The Lemelson-MIT Student Prize is a nationwide search for the most inventive students. The team of UW sophomores, one majoring in science and the other in business, won the undergraduate category that recognizes technology-based inventions to improve consumer devices.
“Many of the sign language translation devices already out there are not practical for everyday use. Some use video input, while others have sensors that cover the user’s entire arm or body,” said Pryor, a researcher in the school’s Composite Structures Laboratory and the software lead for the Husky Robotics Team.
“Our gloves are lightweight, compact and worn on the hands, but ergonomic enough to use as an everyday accessory, similar to hearing aids or contact lenses,” said Pryor.
The duo met in the dorms during their freshman year and discovered they both had a passion for invention and problem solving. Azodi has technical experience as a systems intern at NASA. His long history of diverse volunteer work — which includes organizing dozens of blood drives — provided motivation to build a device that would have real-world impact.
The MIT prize money will help Pryor and Azodi reach their first target audience– the deaf and hard-of-hearing community and those interested in learning and working with American Sign Language. But the gloves could also be commercialized for use in other fields, including medical technology to monitor stroke patients during rehabilitation, gesture control and enhanced dexterity in virtual reality.
(SEE the gloves in action below, and learn more at UW Today)
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