These subtle smart gloves turn sign language into words

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A startup that spun out of Taiwan’s University of Science 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 to 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, and yet each hand has enough power to run for up to eight hours at a time.

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

In a demonstration with 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 currently 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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