These subtle smart gloves turn sign language into text

The research project comes from the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology.

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    A startup spun out of the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology is working on gloves that can translate sign-language gestures into text. Such a concept isn't new, by any means, but the elegance of Yingmi Tech's hardware deserves some special attention.

    The company was actually founded by a team looking to build a less-kludgy way to control objects inside virtual reality. But it transpired that the same hardware was sophisticated enough to identify the motion of the hands as well as bends in the fingers.

    Compared with other sign-language gloves that we've seen, Yingmi's are some of the sleekest and most elegant. The box that houses the gyroscope and batteries is pretty small, yet each hand has enough power to run for as long as eight hours.

    However, there are problems, such as the complexity and size of the Chinese language compared with others. A company spokesperson here at Computex in Taipei said most smartphones aren't capacious enough to hold all of the gesture data to encompass natural signed speech.

    In a demonstration of the product, one can instead speak in broken sentences, like the phrase "You want Coffee? Milk?" rather than anything more florid. As a consequence, Yingmi is looking into building a cloud-based translation platform to lessen the burden on the local device.

    There's no word on when such gloves might become commercially available, but the hope is that if they do come to market, they'll cost less than $200 a pair.

    Chris Velazco contributed to this report.

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    After training to be an intellectual property lawyer, Dan abandoned a promising career in financial services to sit at home and play with gadgets. He lives in Norwich, U.K., with his wife, his books and far too many opinions on British TV comedy. One day, if he's very, very lucky, he'll live out his dream to become the executive producer of Doctor Who before retiring to Radio 4.

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