The future has officially arrived, and it comes in the form of a conspicuous yellow glove complete with colorful wires, cables and the ability to interpret American Sign Language.
The yellow high-tech glove, designed by a team of UCF students who recently graduated, is equipped with electronics and sensors that enable people to gesticulate letters using ASL and have them displayed in real-time via text on a smartphone app.
The four masterminds who labored for eight months to create the sign language interpreter glove, otherwise known as SLIG, are alumni Ramon Santana, Christopher Delgado, Emmanuel Hernandez and Jason Balog. They created the prototype with the purpose of presenting it at UCF’s Senior Design Day Showcase, but it accomplished a great deal more than simply earning the engineering quartet a good grade.
The mission of the project was to essentially allow easier communication between two individuals who might have otherwise had a serious language barrier.
So with the help of the SLIG, a deaf or mute individual is able to more efficiently interact with another who may not know sign language.
The inspiration for the project, in fact, is the 27-year old sister of Santana, Zuleika Nunez, who was born deaf.
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“Most of my life, I experienced the difficulty of communicating with my deaf sister,” Santana explained. “[I’ve] also seen her struggle trying to communicate with our family members, like her own daughter. That is why our project was chosen with two purposes in mind: the first being to help ASL speakers, like my sister, communicate with those who do not understand ASL, and the second to help non-ASL speakers learn and practice signing.”
The futuristic hand glove, however, does have some limitations. Although using two gloves would have allowed the user to communicate even faster by allowing for more gestures that translate into whole words, the team’s project employs only one right-handed glove.
“We were limited on time and budget, so we had to limit the scope of our project to just the letters of the alphabet, which could be done with one glove,” Delgado clarified. “So that would require the user to spell out the words, which, ideally, is not the best way to sign because there are whole words and verbs, like mother, father, run, jog, etc., but we weren’t able to do that with the time and the funding that we had.”
With project sponsors Boeing and Leidos contributing around $400, the former college students were left to pay the difference out of the total project cost of $825.
Hernandez noted the cost was a little higher than it should have been due to a few revisions that required them to rebuild the project a few times, however, if mass-produced, Santana estimates the convenience of owning a SLIG would cost a mere $85.
Santana’s sister, Nunez, wants the team to build more SLIGs for her friends, but they, unfortunately, do not have the money to continue building more gloves. However, Santana said he hope the project was able to “inspire other engineering students to continue adding features and improvements to the glove or do senior design projects that can impact the lives of the hearing-impaired community.”
For Hernandez, that eureka moment when the SLIG finally started functioning properly served as his ultimate joy in the whole process.
“For me, the most enjoyable part was getting it to work,” he said. “I mean, obviously, it’s an engineering project, so we had many setbacks. So that one moment where everything worked, and we saw that we actually got it working, and, you know, just that big breakthrough moment … at that moment, I knew that it was worth it. At that moment, it felt amazing.”
Gabby Baquero is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @Gabby_Baquero or email her at MariaB@centralfloridafuture.com