It is amazing how far technology has come in the past ten years alone. Back then, when sending a text from my SMS-capable phone, I never imagined I would own a touchscreen phone that had a full keyboard years down the road - technology moves so quickly! I most certainly never imagined I would be talking to my phone to send a text message to a friend, either. Voice-to-text? So George Jetson.
Now that I've come to terms with voice-to-text currently being offered as a phone feature, another technology has come along to challenge my reality-based imagination: the Portable Sign Language Translator (PSLT). Really? Yes, really. It hasn't been released yet, but it is being developed by scientists at Aberdeen University's Technabling in Scotland, and it's pretty darn cool.
How Does It Work?
The PSLT puts the device's integrated camera to use, whether it is a smartphone, tablet, or netbook. It works by capturing the signs of the user on camera and turning them into text across the device's display, and also across the display of the person with whom you are communicating.
Beyond the amazing option it gives those who would not normally be able to communicate easily with devices such as smartphones and tablets, the PSLT also allows the user to program their own signs into the system for later recognition. There are many different styles of sign language and sometimes a speech or hearing impaired person must create their own signs for certain terms or concepts, as in certain industries. This added customization feature will make the program limitless, offering an amazing product for the speech and hearing impaired, allowing them to use these new and powerful devices to communicate exactly what they want without the hassle of text messaging.
Aiding Sign Language Students
Anyone who is currently learning sign language or those who suddenly find themselves needing to learn the language due to a member of the family experiencing sudden hearing loss will admit that it takes time to get used to the language. As such, an expert is required most of the time to help you decode the signs you are seeing, or to verify that you are communicating what you intend when you first start out signing for yourself. The cost of this service is great, and not readily available. The app will negate the need for such an expert, opening up any and all free time for learning sign language.
The UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is funding the project in the hopes of helping the hearing impaired or students of sign language one day more effectively communicate with their peers. Researchers involved in the project have put out a call to those who use sign language regularly in the Aberdeen area to aid in the development process. They are working towards making the product available on the market at some point next year, and it has yet to be discussed what devices the release will be compatible with.