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Sign languages are languages that use manual ways of communications, such as hand gestures, facial expressions, and orientation of fingers and arms, to deliver meaning. It is the main communication used by deaf communities around the world. But not all people use sign languages, and that contributes to the existence of a language barrier among deaf and non-deaf communities. To help break the barrier, a robotic hand has been developed to translate words into sign languages.
Robotic Hand with Sign Language Translation
Antwerp’s Sign Language Actuating Node or ASLAN has been created via 3D printing, and it is capable of interpreting both written and spoken words. It uses a type of sign language called fingerspelling, in which the words are spelled out per letter in a series of separate gestures. At the moment, the prototype model uses a computer in translating text or spoken words, but the developers plan to make the final version portable.
"What we have seen in real situations is that there is a real gap and barrier between the deaf community and the real world -- ASLAN can reduce that barrier. I see ASLAN as something being put in deaf people's backpacks -- they can carry it with them, to lectures, to anywhere -- there is a need for this," said Erwin Smet, a robotics professor at the University of Antwerp.
How ASLAN Works in Sign Language Translation
As mentioned earlier, ASLAN is currently paired with a computer to translate words into sign language. Users can send messages to the robotic hand via a local digital network, and after the device receives the words, it starts translating the words using fingerspelling with its 25 printed plastic parts moved by 16 motors, three motor controllers, and a microcomputer.
Project ASLAN is expected to be ready within five years and developers plan to make the final model with a size that fits in a backpack.