Japanese researchers at Osaka and Shinshu Universities have been working together to develop a gadget that automatically translates finger spelling into text. The prototype product, called “Fingual,” consists of a glove with magnetic fingertips. As you move your hands to form letters, the glove senses the changes in the magnetic fields and translates the movements into words.
Everybody forms letters somewhat differently, so for the highest level of accuracy, users must program the glove themselves, to recognize their specific style of signing. Once that’s done, the glove is capable of translating gestures with a 90% accuracy rate, at least while indoors. If you use a glove programmed to understand someone else’s gestures, the accuracy rate will be lower, but still around 80% to 90%.
Fingual was demonstrated on a computer at the conference, but the final product is expected to be compatible with smart phones as well, for email and sending text messages on the go.
Why create a glove to translate finger spelling when people could just use the keyboard on their computer to enter text? One of the researchers working on the project explained:
“For people who use sign language, I think it may be easier to enter their sign language as text. We started this research because we thought that, if email on a mobile phone could be written directly through finger language, rather than pressing buttons, the finger language could also be translated directly.”
Fingual is a neat little device, at any rate. You can see it in action in the video below: