Attempts at making a glove into a communication device for the deaf have been going on for years now, but a group of undergraduate computer engineering students at Carnegie Melon have come up with what has to be the most practical design to date. The main difference being that it translates sign messages through a cellphone as opposed to a bulky computer. And the best part is that the device uses fairly inexpensive materials to work its magic.
Basically, the glove operates using flexor strips in the fingers that send signals to a chip regarding their position. The chip interprets that data then sends it wirelessly to a cellphone configured with a vocabulary that corresponds with the gestures. The cellphone converts that information into a text message and then into speech using an off-the-shelf program. So far, HandTalk has been able to learn 15 of the 26 letters in the American Sign Language alphabet, and the team plans on adding pressure sensors and accelerometers to account for more complex gestures that make up the difference. With any luck, the HandTalk glove will be ready for a real-world testing in 3 or 4 months.
It sounds great, but I think Jason Chen put it best when he asked: "I wonder what it'll convert this gesture into":