News / Product Design

“The Language of Glove”: smart glove turns sign language into text for real-time translation

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Photo: Timothy Revell

A new glove developed at the University of California, San Diego, has been designed to convert all 26 letters of American Sign Language (ASL) into text on a computer or smartphone. 

The device, titled “The Language of Glove” by its engineers, has been built as a low-cost alternative to other designs. According to the UC San Diego News Centre, the glove was built for less than $100 using “stretchable and printable electronics that are inexpensive, commercially available and easy to assemble.”

“Gesture recognition is just one demonstration of this glove’s capabilities,” says Timothy O’Connor, nanoengineering PhD student at UC San Diego and first author of the study. “Our ultimate goal is to make this a smart glove that in the future will allow people to use their hands in virtual reality, which is much more intuitive than using a joystick and other existing controllers.”

“We’ve innovated a low-cost and straightforward design for smart wearable devices using off-the-shelf components. Our work could enable other researchers to develop similar technologies without requiring costly materials or complex fabrication methods,” says Darren Lipomi, nanoengineering professor and the study’s senior author.

Built using stretchable sensors on the back of the knuckles, the device is fitted with wiring across a standard sports glove for comfort. “The sensors are made of thin strips of a silicon-based polymer coated with a conductive carbon paint,” writes the UC San Diego. “Stainless steel thread connects each of the sensors to a low-power, custom-made printed circuit board that’s attached to the back of the wrist.”

The team are currently in the process of developing the next version of the glove — one that’s equipped with the sense of touch. “The goal is to make a glove that could control either a virtual or robotic hand and then send tactile sensations back to the user’s hand,” says Darren. “This work is a step toward that direction.”