Talking Hands

A female with her hand outstretched towards the camera.

Talk to the hand… nooo really, talk to the hand.

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Learning a new language is HARD! Thankfully, new apps can translate words in real time. But what about American Sign Language?

Enter Jun Chen and colleagues from the University of California, Los Angeles. They dreamed of making conversations between signers and non-signers easier.

The team designed gloves with thin, conductive yarn along each finger. Stretching the yarn sends an electrical signal to a mobile app. A computer program then translates these signals into speech!!

Four people with hearing loss tested the gloves while signing in ASL. The app matched the gestures with the correct word or letter signed.

Results? Chen’s design translated more than SIX HUNDRED signs into speech… all in real time, with ninety-nine percent accuracy! The gloves and yarn-sensors cost less than fifty dollars! Chen hopes these gloves can reduce language barriers between non-signers and those with hearing loss.

Let’s all learn to speak — and sign — the language of g-love!

Reference: Zhou, Z., Chen, K., Li, X. et al. Sign-to-speech translation using machine-learning-assisted stretchable sensor arrays. Nat Electron 3, 571–578 (2020).