Smart Gloves That Can Translate Sign Language to Writing and Speech

Alasdair Allan
2 min readJul 17, 2017

Much like Linux on the desktop, it’s always next year that’s going to be the year wearables take off. My own view is that wearables aren’t going to take off ‘til they’re, well, wearable. The current collection of smartwatches, and fitness trackers, aren’t wearables. They’re just things that people wear, which isn’t the same thing at all.

So I’m always interested to see wearables that people actually wear, and do more than just act as a second screen, or collect data. Which is why I was intrigued to see a team at the University of California San Diego had built a smart glove that can translate American Sign Language alphabet into text.

“The Language of Glove” is a smart glove that wirelessly translates the American Sign Language (ASL) alphabet into text and controls a virtual hand to mimic ASL gestures. (📷: Timothy O’Connor/UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)

The glove, which the team calls “The Language of Glove,” was built for less than $100 using stretchable and printable electronics.

But it turns out the glove is not the first, and possibly not even the best, attempt to create a glove that transliterates sign language. Last year Thomas Pryor and Navid Azodi, undergraduates at the University of Washington, put together smart gloves—built around an Arduino and several accelerometers—to translate sign language directly into speech rather than text.

Thomas Pryor and Navid Azodi of the University of Washington are the Lemelson-MIT undergraduate prize winners in 2016 for “SignAloud,” a glove that transliterate sign language into text and speech. (📹: Lemelson MIT)

Together the two undergraduates won last year’s Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for their project, competing in the “Use It” undergraduate category that recognizes technology-based inventions designed to improve consumer devices.

The “SignAloud” gloves developed by University of Washington students to translate ASL into speech. (📷: University of Washington)

If you’re interesting in learning more about the “The Language of Glove” you can read the original paper which was published in the journal PLOS ONE earlier this month. While most information about “SignAloud” gloves can be found on the Lemelson-MIT site, and if you’re interested in entering the Lemelson-MIT competition yourself there’s still time to sign up for 2018.