Smart gloves give a new voice to the dis­abled

China Daily (USA) - - WUZHEN - By XIE MIN and YANWEIJUE in­Wuzhen, Zhe­jiang xiemin@chi­

Peo­ple with hear­ing and speech im­pair­ments are be­ing given a new voice thanks to the lat­est in vir­tual re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy, to be put on dis­play at the 3rd World In­ter­net Con­fer­ence on Novem­ber 16-18 in Wuzhen, Zhe­jiang prov­ince.

Sign lan­guage has long played a vi­tal role in com­mu­ni­ca­tion among deaf and mute peo­ple; how­ever, it does not help them com­mu­ni­cate with those that don’t un­der­stand it. This is where the VR tech comes in.

Using a pair of “smart gloves”, sign lan­guage ges­tures are able to be in­ter­preted and con­verted into ver­bal lan­guage, giv­ing users a voice which can be uni­ver­sally un­der­stood.

This in­no­va­tive solution comes thanks to work of Chi­nese VR startup Yingmi Tech­nol­ogy, based in Tongx­i­ang, Zhe­jiang prov­ince.

The gloves fea­ture an ar­ray of sen­sors and ac­celerom­e­ters which de­tect movement and trans­mit the data via blue­tooth to a com­puter which analy­ses the mo­tions, check­ing them against a gi­ant sign lan­guage data­base.

The sys­tem is de­signed to iden­tify all kinds of ges­tures and signs, and then match them to the data­base — once matched, the com­puter will con­vert the ges­tures into a visual or au­dio out­put.

“The sys­tem is just like a dig­i­tal dic­tionary in sign lan­guage where the user can quickly find the ver­bal mean­ing of the ges­tures,” said Mei Ling, R&D en­gi­neer at Yingmi Tech­nol­ogy.

The gloves mainly con­cen­trate on track­ing how much the fin­gers are bent, palm ori­en­ta­tion and the movement path of the user’s hands. All of which en­hances the ac­cu­racy, he added.

“Com­pared with the cur­rent VR ma­nip­u­la­tors such as joy­sticks, our smart gloves can iden­tify more ac­cu­rate hand ges­tures and this tech­nol­ogy can pro­vide peo­ple with bet­ter in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ences,” Mei said.

The gloves, thought to be the first of their kind in China, has made their de­but at the on­go­ing 3rd World In­ter­net Con­fer­ence.

The com­pany in­vited a sign lan­guage ex­pert on Wed­nes­day to try the wear­able gad­get at the con­fer­ence, ac­cord­ing to Chen Cong, gen­eral manager of the com­pany.

Chen and his group hope the prod­uct can go to mar­ket early next year, car­ry­ing an es­ti­mated sales price of less than 1,000 yuan ($148).

“We would like to users a con­ve­nient of­fer and af­ford­able wear­able prod­uct to make their voices heard,” Chen said.

The lat­est sta­tis­tics show that China cur­rently has more than 85 mil­lion dis­abled peo­ple, about 20 mil­lion of whom are af­fected by hear­ing and speech im­pair­ment.

Most of them make use of im­ported hear­ing-aids and cochlear im­plants, which are ex­pen­sive, ac­cord­ing to Yang Yang, chair­woman at the China As­so­ci­a­tion for the Deaf andHard ofHear­ing., China’s equiv­a­lent to Ama­, lists the price of im­ported in-ear hearingaids as at least 4,000 yuan.

“So far, there has been no as­sis­tive de­vice for the mute, and our prod­uct will ful­fill the mar­ket va­cancy in the coun­try,” said Chen.

Yingmi Tech­nol­ogy has been helped in its in­no­va­tion thanks in part to fa­vor­able in­dus­trial poli­cies put in place by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment. In Au­gust, the State Coun­cil rolled out a plan to sup­port the de­vel­op­ment of the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and as­sis­tive de­vice in­dus­try and to en­cour­age re­gional govern­ments to pro­vide sub­si­dies for the dis­abled to help them meet their needs for as­sis­tive de­vices.

“All this is good news for us,” Chen said, re­veal­ing that the com­pany is work­ing on a sup­port­ing app for the gloves, de­vel­op­ing more al­go­rithms, and in­te­grat­ing more lan­guages such as English and Ja­panese.


A cus­tomer buys sesame seed cakes via smart­phone in Wuzhen, Zhe­jiang prov­ince.

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