Mankind has always tried to breakdown the language barriers around the world. For the beginning we’ve had interpreters, and now we have advanced dictionaries and language courses. Lately we have even seen artificial translators that instantly tell us what a person speaking a foreign language is saying with the help of a synthetic voice and some clever coding. Well, it seems we are not quite finished yet. Humanity will keep pushing the boundaries for what is possible within the technology field, and as a result, we’ll eventually manage to breakdown the language barriers completely. But there is one language that has been extra hard to implement in this overall mission and that is sign language.
How can we possibly make technology translate signs into speech? Several attempts have been made throughout the years, and with each attempt we see greater possibilities and new solutions. Recently the EnableTalk concept (developed by a team in Donetsk, Ukraine) was announced, and it is something of a mind twister really. With the help of features like touch and flex sensors, a gyro, compass and accelerometer to monitor hand movement, a pair of gloves will translate what is signed into speech. This way, the speech impaired or deaf will never again have to write what he or she wants to say on notes to everyone who doesn’t know how to sign.
It’s not the first time this has been attempted, but it is certainly the greatest leap in this technology. It is a huge breakthrough that will certainly have a massive impact on how sign language is perceived. Next time you get a tap on your shoulder and find a person trying to sign a question to you, don’t be surprised if you hear a voice coming from somewhere other than his or her mouth. This is a technology that I want to keep a close eye on. It’s yet another groundbreaking turn in the history of how humans communicate.