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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

High-Tech Tablet offers a two way communication tool for the deaf and hearing Impaired

YouTube Published by MotionSavvy LLC  on Oct 21, 2014
With recent advancements in gesture recognition technology, it is now possible to provide the millions of deaf and hard of hearing people worldwide with a affordable tool to communicate with their peers.

article by The Washington Post | By Rachel Feltman | Oct 27, 2014
Soon, the deaf could use a special tablet to translate their sign language into spoken word. The device, developed by a start-up called MotionSavvy, is currently being crowdfunded with an IndieGoGo campaign.
Called UNI, the device itself is actually a tablet case -- one that contains a high-speed sensor, capable of sensing hand movements down to fractions of a millimeter. The accompanying software uses gesture recognition to track the hand motion of signers, then translates their signs into text. Words spoken in response are displayed as text onscreen, facilitating a two-way conversation even if the deaf speaker has trouble vocalizing and the hearing speaker doesn't know sign language.
UNI isn't meant to replace the need for human sign language interpreters. In fact, MotionSavvy CTO Alexandr Opalka told WIRED, he and his team hope UNI will lead to a boom in business for them: The idea is to help the deaf get past initial barriers, such as job interviews at companies that don't provide interpreters.
"If you can't communicate during an interview, you're not getting the job," Opalka told WIRED. Indeed, some estimate that half or more deaf adults in the United States are unemployed. "With UNI, we predict more people who are deaf will be able to get jobs and stay working, and that's how we'll get more people to hire interpreters. There will be more people in the workforce."
The IndieGoGo video shown above uses the more heartwarming example of childhood friendship, but the product's goal can still hold true: A child unafraid to introduce themselves is much more likely to convince their peers to learn enough sign language to play with them.
Opalka and his fellow co-founders are deaf themselves, having initially met and collaborated at Rochester Institute of Technology's National Technical Institute for the Deaf. So far, they say their feedback from others in the deaf community has been overwhelmingly positive.
And they're certainly committed to getting the technology into the hands of those that need it. After receiving feedback, they dropped the projected cost of the device from $799 to $200, plus a small monthly subscription fee for the software.
One of the most difficult challenges will be accommodating the many variations in sign language, Opalka wrote in an e-mail. "There are many different 'accents' and personalized signing styles, and this has to be accounted for," he said. But UNI will allow users to input custom signs and share them with the database, making the technology infinitely customizable.
*Rachel Feltman runs The Post's Speaking of Science blog.


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