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Among all six finalists in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup in Sydney, a project created by a group of Ukrainian students has caught the attention of many. Dubbed as EnableTalk, the project aims to convert sign language into speech.

There are about 40 million deaf people and many of them use sign language as a method of communication, but very few speaking people can understand it. EnableTalk makes use of gloves fitted with flex sensors, touch sensors, gyroscopes, accelerometers, and some solar cells. As the gloves’ wearer creates gestures, a system translates it into text and then into spoken words via a text-to-speech software. The whole system is connected to a smartphone by Bluetooth.

The best thing about this project is that the hardware for its prototypes costs only about $75 per device and is expected to become cheaper once it becomes mass-produced.

But it has its share of challenges. Like spoken languages, there is a high degree of variation among sign languages. Spelling the alphabet is different between the British Sign Language, which uses two hands most of the time, and the American Sign Language that uses only the right hand. Some sign languages also make use of facial expressions and lip reading, which the gloves obviously cannot accommodate.

And although EnableTalk uses Microsoft technology, restrictions within Windows Phone 7’s Bluetooth stack forced the developers to run their system on Windows Mobile, the predecessor of Windows Phone that Microsoft would rather forget.

Source: TechCrunch

 
 

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