Our project is a glove that translates American Sign Language to audio at a cost effective level. We wanted to bridge the gap between hearing and deaf people, since few hearing people know sign language, and writing on a pad is time-consuming and often impractical.
The Sign Wave works by using flex sensors to determine the position of the fingers. Our ideal model would include motion sensosr on the fingertips, palms, and sides of the hands to detect the various motions inherent to sign language. Ideally, the Arduino would be programmed to output certain words or phrases to a speaker when certain buttons are pressed or when the hand is in a specific position.
One issue we faced was that the Arduino and breadboard were very cumbersome and awkward to keep attached to one's arm. We attempted to resolve this issue by switching to a mini breadboard. We had minor difficulties condensing the wires onto the mini board, but we soon got it to function properly. Another problem was gauging the range of acceptable gestures for each specific sign; for example, m's and n's are both signed using a fist with a thumb poking through the fingers. A subtle movement could change the letter signed, so we needed to determine what range of motion defined an m and an n. Finally, due to time constraints, we were unable to include buttons to our prototype. This severely limits the degree to which we can communicate effectively.
We are proud that we were able to program the glove to convey numbers 1-9 and say 7 letters of the alphabet.
We learned that translating ASL to spoken English is much less straightforward than we expected. Not only are some words (forms of "be," for instance) omitted, but facial expressions, body movements, and the context of the conversation can affect the meaning of a certain gesture. For example, a thumbs-up resting on an open palm signifies "help." Drawing the hands towards oneself signifies "help me," while pushing them toward a companion signifies "help you."
We hope that the Sign Wave can eventually be used to facilitate interaction between people with differing disabilities; for example, a deaf person would be able to communicate with a blind person who wouldn't be able to read or perceive signs. Additionally, the Sign Wave can be used by people attempting to learn ASL. The translation from signs to speech will allow users to make sure they're making the correct signs. Finally, we hope that the Sign Wave will be useful in emergency situations when someone may need to communicate quickly, or when writing their concerns down isn't a viable option.