Inventors hope a tablet device which can turn visual sign language into audio and translate audio into text will become the world’s first translator for the deaf.
The device, named UNI by developers MotionSavvy, is the subject of a crowdfunding campaign which has already raised £18,000 of the £25,500 the project needs to progress to full production stage.
It is described as a portable, elegant two-way communication device designed to help the deaf and those who can hear communicate with each other.
It can track hand movements in real-time, allowing live transcription of sign language which can then be spoken by a speech synthesiser. Those who do not use sign language can speak into the device and see their words appear as text.
Ryan Hait-Campbell, 28, of MotionSavvy, said: “We’ve had around 150 pre-orders so far. The response from the deaf community has been overwhelming – everybody wants one.”
The team met at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York state, which runs a large program for deaf students. They came up with the idea in 2013 when they entered a competition on how to improve accessibility for deaf individuals.
The tablet works by using Leap Motion, an advanced gesture-recognition technology. It was recently featured in TIME magazine’s influential list of 2014’s 25 best inventions.
Mr Hait-Campbell, who is deaf, said: “We started this to change the lives of everyone we know including ourselves. To be recognized this early in development is an honor.”
Original founder and chief design officer Jordan Stemper, 24, said the biggest challenge is making it affordable for deaf individuals.
He said: “Most deaf individuals in general do not have high income due to difficulty obtaining jobs.
“We have received a lot of press and support from hearing individuals and we’re happy they are becoming more aware about communication barriers we face daily.”
To support the UNI crowdfunding campaign, visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/motionsavvy-uni-1st-sign-language-to-voice-system.
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