Students Invent Gloves that Translate Sign Language

June 1, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. text / tɛkst / (n.) – printed or written words
Example: The government website was difficult to use because of the very small text.

2. speech / spitʃ / (n.) – language that is spoken
Example: Children improve their speech by listening to the people around them.

3. recognize / ˈrɛk əgˌnaɪz / (v.) – to acknowledge someone publicly for doing something good
Example: The students were recognized in the ceremony for their contribution to agricultural research.

4. detect / dɪˈtɛkt / (v.) – to recognize the presence of something
Example: The motion-sensor camera is able to detect movement.

5. two-way / ˈtuˈweɪ / (adj.) – allowing the involvement of two people
Example: People who don’t speak the same language may have problems with two-way communication.


Read the text below.
Two undergraduate students invented a pair of gloves that translate sign language to text or speech.

Navid Azodi and Thomas Pryor, both from the University of Washington, have been rewarded the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize worth $10,000 for their invention, the SignAloud. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) gives the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize to recognize budding undergraduate and graduate inventors from colleges all over the United States.

Azodi and Pryor’s invention was given the prize for the “Use it!” category, which recognizes innovations that help improve daily life. The students invented the SignAloud because they wanted to help those who are deaf or have difficulty hearing connect with the rest of the world. They also wanted to create a device that is both practical and comfortable.

The SignAloud is lightweight and easy to use. It contains several sensors that recognize the gestures of the hands and fingers. It sends data to a computer via Bluetooth and the gestures detected by the sensor are matched with words or phrases. If a match was found, the meaning of the gesture would be spoken through the computer’s speaker.

The inventors are hoping to develop the device further and make it commercially available in the future.

Meanwhile, a sign language translating device called UNI has already been crowdfunded since 2014. The device allows two-way communication between a deaf person and a person without hearing difficulties. It uses a high-speed camera to detect gestures and a software to translate gestures into speech. The software also translates speech into text using voice recognition. The software can be used with Mac or Windows devices, or with a specialized tablet called UNI Pro. UNI is set to be released in the summer of 2016.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Which of the two devices mentioned in the article would you choose, the SignAloud or the UNI? Why?
·         Name some ways to help hearing-impaired people communicate better.

Discussion B

·         If you can invent a device to help deaf people, what would you make? Discuss.
·         How can technological innovations help people with other disabilities? Give examples.

June 1, 2016