Just become someone is hearing impaired, it doesn’t mean they can’t speak. This unfortunate complaint usually applies to those who were born deaf. Relying on sign language and those around them having an understanding of it, it is the quickest and easiest way for deaf people to communicate. Until now!

The Prototype

A new prototype has just been launched in China. A hi-tech language translator will finally bridge the gap between those who can hear and those who can’t, those who can sign and those who haven’t mastered that ability. By way of a Kinect camera which recognizes the gestures made when signing and a computer with an on-screen avatar, this translation technology is able to convert signs into both verbal speech and written language for those who can hear and, conversely, can translate words spoken by a hearing person into sign language on the screen for deaf people to see.

Research for Real Time Communication

A team of researchers in China came up with this communication device with vital input from corporations and institutions such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Microsoft Research Asia, Microsoft Research Connections and Beijing Union University. Currently operating in both English and Mandarin, this language translator works in real time allowing people with hearing impairments to have genuine conversations with others. The initial aim is to place this cost-effective technology in doctors’ surgeries as well as in areas such as airport kiosks which would provide the hearing impaired with communicative jobs and other opportunities.

With an estimated 360 million people worldwide who suffer from a complete or partial loss of hearing, this prototype is the start of their new communicative future. What other places would benefit the most from having one of these language translators and what opportunities could they open up for the hearing impaired?