There are currently about 40 million deaf, mute and deaf-mute people and many of them use sign language to communicate, but there are very few people who actually understand sign language.
Four Ukrainian students have done the seemingly impossible: they’ve given a voice to the voiceless. Calling themselves QuadSquad, they created a product called “Enable Talk”—gloves that translate sign language into spoken word, giving a voice to the 40 million people who live every day with speech and hearing impairments.
The Enable Talk project won first place at Microsoft's Imagine Cup 2012 in
. Sydney, Australia
Students on the winning Team QuadSquad — Anton Stepanov, Anton Posternikov,Valeriy Yasakov, and Maxim Osika — beat out 350 students from 75 countries for the gold. Their Enable Talk glove gives deaf and hearing-impaired individuals the ability to communicate with those who don't know sign language.
"A while ago, in the supermarket we saw a cashier having difficulties understanding a speech-impaired person and we thought how useful it would be to have a device to overcome this communication barrier," the trio wrote in their Imagine Cup entry. "We were very surprised to find out that no such devices are available on the market. Later, our interaction with hearing-impaired athletes at our school confirmed that such a solution is needed for them to communicate more fully with the world."
The glove is flexible, easy to use, cheap to produce and battery operated. Each glove has 15 flex sensors. The sensors decipher hand motions in the air. A hearing-impaired person would use the glove and app to communicate with someone who doesn't know sign language.
The glove picks up the hand gestures and the Enable Talk smartphone app translates the data. The app is wirelessly connected through Bluetooth technology.
But Enable Talk wasn’t the only innovation of the competition. The runners-up certainly deserve commendation of their own: Coccolo from
created a software program featuring lights that “talk to each other.” The
team’s creation saves energy by dimming lights when they aren’t being used. Japan ’s
wi-GO, who took third place, made a shopping cart capable of following disabled
customers through a grocery store. Portugal
Speaking hands and automated shopping carts: talk about a brave new world.