If you need to communicate with
hearing-impaired people but haven't gone to the trouble of learning sign language, you may soon be able to rely on a
robot to do your talking for you. Researchers in Japan have developed a prototype robotic hand that can recognize
spoken phrases and translate them into sign language. For now, the hand -- which has 18 joints for more fluid movement
-- can only repeat 10 simple Japanese phrases, along with phonetic hiragana characters, but researchers hope that
future versions will be able to recognize hundreds of thousands of words.