The Original Hand-Talk glove

Sign_language_glove.jpgWe have posted a few days ago the story of the HandTalk communication glove from a team of students at Carnegie Mellon University that translates American Sign Language (ASL) into speech via a cell phones running text to speech software.

A great and useful concept that helping to bridge the communication barrier between deaf people and people not familiar with the ASL.

It turned out that this very same concept is not as new as it looked. We got quite some comments and emails pointing out such concept was created back in 2001 by Ryan Patterson.

To give credit to the person from whom this idea originated we are gladly introduce the inventor of the Original Hand-Talk glove.

The background story of Ryan’s Sign Language Translator goes like this: Ryan was looking for an idea for a science fair project and during his search he remembered “… a time when I was at a restaurant and saw some people who were deaf and needed an interpreter to help them place their order. I thought I could try to develop an electronic method that would make it easier for people to communicate.

Seven month later Ryan demonstrated his Sign Language Translator which made big headlines and won some interesting prices.

Ryan_Patterson.jpgRyan’s Sign Language Translator was a Grand Award winner in the 2001 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the first place winner in the individual category at the 2001 Siemens Westinghouse Science & Technology Competition, he received top honors and a $100,000 scholarship at Intel’s Science Talent Search.

Last but not least, Ryan’s project was among the Best Inventions 2002 of Time Magazine.

Ryan’s Sign Language Translator consists of two separate components, a leather golf glove that has ten flexible sensors sewn into it which monitor the position of the fingers by measuring the electrical resistance created by the fingers as they bend.

A small micro controller on the back of the hand converts the change in the electrical current into digital signals and transmits them wireless to a computer. The computer then reads the numerical values and converts them into the letters which appear on the screen.

Given the technological advancements since his invention in 2001, it’s easy to imagine to use an smart phone instead of a computer and feed the characters into a text to speech software to have a portable system as demonstrated by the Carnegie Mellon team.

How could we miss this story during our research for the HandTalk glove.

I am not sure if the team at Carnegie Mellon University knew about Ryan’s project or ‘re-invented’ the same concept a second time but they do mention on their project Website a competitive analysis listing 3 different projects related to gesture sensing gloves but somehow missed out Ryan Patterson’s Sign Language Translator.

The question now is: when will we see an ASL glove coming to the market and help to bridge the communication gap this great concept is able to accomplish? Maybe the technology available in 2008 makes the industrialization possible?

[sources: Time Magazine, NIDCD]


  1. I wouldn’t even bet that the 2001 invention was the first one (without doing a thorough patent search).

    There are a lot of people and organizations (including those who should know better), that are “re-inventing” things over and over again. Re-invention is not bad in itself, as it rarely results in exactly the same concepts, but in an age when information from around the world and going back hundreds of years (including easily searched prior patents) are available at the touch of a button, there is NO excuse for POOR SCHOLARSHIP, unless one wants to be able to deliberately claim ignorance (something I would not want to brag about)or be able to make believable (but fake)claims of originally, in the hopes of duping people and organizations into giving them kudos they may not really deserve. I can’t understand how that we now all have available these tremendous prior-art research capabilities, people seem to still claim “I didn’t know that!” or “How could I have known”. In my opinion there is no researcher in the world who can use this as a legitimate or believable excuse any longer. In my opinion, the reason such oversights happen is due to either arrogance (i.e. ‘nobody else could have possibly come up with this idea’), laziness (i.e ‘I don’t have time for background research’), or just plain ego (i.e. ‘I don’t care what anybody else has done, I want to get the attention and rewards’).

  2. A few years ago I came across this concept online and anxiously await the product to come to market. For the past several years I have been getting by with “small talk” with my non-speaking associates at store level (I’m their IT support). I’m hopeless at sign language–probably end up unintentionally cursing at them! But I do see the potential in this product allowing my good friend to excel in his managerial duties while giving him “a new voice” in communicating with customers and other store personnel. In fact, a portable [handheld] kiosk could accompany in a sort of walkie-talkie style to enable the customer to select from several FAQ type entries to speed up the communication. In any case, this product is one of those life changers. Please don’t inhibit this progress with patent lawsuits. We all look forward to enhanced (how ’bout normal) or at least common communication on the floor or in the breakroom.

  3. Man, speak about a fantastic submit! I?ve stumbled throughout your weblog a couple of Instances within the past, but I generally forgot to bookmark it. But not again! Thanks for posting the way you do, I truly value seeing someone who really has a viewpoint and isn?t definitely just bringing back again up crap like nearly all other writers these days. Keep it up!

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