Radio Inspire

How To Learn Sign Language

Developing sensor technology that translates sign language


Communication is a fundamental part of life.
No matter who we are or where we are, our humanity never shines as bright as when we
express ourselves. Our exchanges make us who we are, but the communication challenges faced
by those who are deaf – and those seeking to understand them – can sometimes limit
these exchanges and reduce the overall quality of life for everyone. What if it didn’t
have to be this way? What if the deaf could communicate with those who don’t know sign
language and be instantly understood? Roozbeh Jafari, a biomedical engineer at Texas A&M
University, is developing the technology needed to make this a reality. We are building a
wearable system that can identify and detect the sign language. The wearable system uses
two different sensing modalities. It looks at the hand movements through motion sensors.
It also looks at the muscle activations to identify specific types of hand movements. This device will overcome the communication
barrier between those who know the sign language and those who don’t. The current prototype
that we have has microelectronics placed at different parts of the hand. Our ultimate
objective is to reduce the form factor to a watch so the system would be truly wearable. It’s
engineering with the power to empower, and the technology could make a world of difference
to each and every life it touches.

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