Sign Language Over Video Phones Becoming Practical

Sign Language Over Video Phones Becoming Practical

University of Washington engineers have developed a cell phone system for deaf people to use sign language when making phone calls. The problem with directly streaming video is that today’s technology often isn’t fast enough to provide high resolution at 30 frames per second, let alone bandwidth costs and drain on the battery. dunj2hoe Sign Language Over Video Phones Becoming PracticalTo overcome this, algorithms inside the phone identify hand motions and focus on transmitting those at the expense of the rest of what’s on the screen. 11 phones are currently being trialed by student’s at UW’s summer program for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

The UW team estimates that iPhone’s FaceTime video conferencing service uses nearly 10 times the bandwidth of MobileASL. Even after the anticipated release of an iPhone app to transmit sign language, people would need to own an iPhone 4 and be in an area with very fast network speeds in order to use the service. The MobileASL system could be integrated with the iPhone 4, the HTC Evo, or any device that has a video camera on the same side as the screen.

A team of developers, Saron Paz, Oleg Imanilov, Zvika Markfeld, and Tomer Daniel, have developed a novel sign language interpreter glove called the Show&Tell. The prototype glove, which was demonstrated at a recent Google developers’ event in Tel Aviv, incorporates a number of sensors to detect hand gestures which are then interpreted via a smartphone app to produce text. Flex sensors embedded in the fingers of the glove detect finger position while an accelerometer and tilt sensor detect hand movement and orientation as demonstrated in the video below.

It is not clear how many gestures the system can interpret and the device would seem to be an early proof of concept. However, it could offer a simple and cheap interface for people not versed in sign language to easily communicate with the hearing-impaired.

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