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Enable Talk


Four Ukrainian students have created gloves that allow speech- and hearing-impaired people to communicate with those who dont use or understand sign language. The glove-like device, which is called Enable Talk, is equipped with sensors that recognize sign language and translate it into text on a smartphone or computer, which then converts the text to spoken words.


Courtesy of Microsoft, QuadSquad team


The Ukrainian QuadSquad team, which was made up of Anton Paternikov, Maksym Osika, Anton Stepanov and Valeriy Yasakov, who are members of the Computer Academy Shag in the city of Donetsk, took part at the 10th international competition Microsoft Imagine Cup, the worlds premier student technology competition, which this time was held in Sydney, Australia, in the summer of 2012. They competed in Software Design Category, considered to be the toughest and they won the first prize.

The inventors claim that the idea to create such a device developed when they faced the challenge of communicating with a fellow student with impaired hearing they did not know the sign language the deaf people use and it posed a major obstacle in communication.

So, to go around this hurdle, they put their heads together and came up with creating a device which could recognize the voice and make it possible for the one who uses such a device to recognize sign language messages. The initial device, built into a sort of glove, consisted of a microcontroller, 15 flex sensors, accelerometer, gyroscope, and a compass in order to define the position of the glove in space.

The device had a built-in system that can translate sign language into text and then into spoken words using a text-to-speech engine. And the entire system can work over Bluetooth enabling smartphone connection.

The Enable Talk device user creates a text by moving hand and fingers in certain sequences and then this text is transformed into computer voice speech.

There are millions of deaf people and many of them use sign language to communicate among themselves, but there are very few people who have no problems with hearing or with speech, who actually understand sign language. Using Enable Talk gloves opens new exciting opportunities for people with impaired hearing for communication with people with no such problem.

The few existing projects that come close to what Enable Talk is proposing, generally cost around $1,200 and usually have fewer sensors, use wired connections and dont come with an integrated software solution. Enable Talk, on the other hand, says that the hardware for its prototypes costs somewhere around $75 per device.

The marketable device will cost considerably more it is estimated to stay within $300.

Besides the cost, though, there is another feature that makes this project so interesting users can teach the system new gestures and modify those that will be available in a library of standard gestures. Given the high degree of variation among sign languages, which also has regional dialects just like spoken language, this will be a welcome feature for users.

Now further research is in process. Currently, there is no commercially available product yet. Enable Talk project work was rated highly on Microsoft Imagine Cup, but still this device needs a lot of further development.

The Ukrainian QuadSquad team applied for Microsoft Imagine Cup Grant, a three-year, $3 million competitive grant program that provides students with funding and support to help transform their project into a social enterprise or nonprofit that will address a specific social issue.

In December 2012, QuadSquad team was announced among 5 winners of the Grant.

If it is a success, as it looks it will be, it will certainly help to bridge the language gap that separates hearing from non-hearing culture.












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