A glove that translates sign language into speech in real time has been developed by scientists — potentially allowing deaf people to communicate directly with anyone, without the need for a translator.
The wearable device contains sensors that run along the four fingers and thumb to identify each word, phrase or letter as it is made in American Sign Language.
Those signals are then sent wirelessly to a smartphone, which translates them into spoken words at a rate of one word per second.
Scientists at UCLA, where the project was developed, believe the innovation could allow for easier communication for deaf people. "Our hope is that this opens up an easy way for people who use sign language to communicate directly with non-signers without needing someone else to translate for them," said lead researcher Jun Chen.
"In addition, we hope it can help more people learn sign language themselves," he added. The research was published in the journal Nature Electronics.
Between 100,000 and 1 million people are estimated to use American Sign Language in the United States.
The glove does not translate British Sign Language, the other dominant sign language in the English-speaking world, which is used by about 151,000 adults in the UK, according to the British Deaf Association.
The researchers also added adhesive sensors to the faces of people used to test the device — between their eyebrows and on one side of their mouths — to capture facial expressions that are a part of American Sign Language.
Chen said the device is lighter than the wearable systems developed in previous attempts to create live sign language translating equipment.
More than 300 sign languages are used by more than 70 million deaf people across the world.