‘Signglasses': Google Glass for deaf students

Tuesday 3 June

When it comes to enjoying events like a trip to the planetarium, there's a whole segment of the population incapable of appreciating their tour of outer space.

With the lights off, deaf students can't see the sign language interpreters in front of the room, but with the lights on, they can't lose themselves in the constellations of stars projected up above for all to see. That's what inspired a group of researchers at Brigham Young University to launch the ‘signglasses’ project – an innovative system that projects sign language interpreters onto Google Glass and other similar products, effectively improving experiences for those who are deaf.

Lead by Michael Jones, assistant professor of computer science at BYU, the research team has already begun field testing the system with students from Jean Massieu School for the Deaf. So far they've learned that most students prefer the interpreter be projected to the center of the lens, rather than at the top. This way, students say, they can focus more on the planetarium show.

But what has really proven advantageous to Jones' technological advancements for the deaf community is working alongside those who will be most affected by his invention.

“Having a group of students who are fluent in sign language here at the university has been huge,” said Jones. “We got connected into that community of fluent sign language students and that opened a lot of doors for us.”

While originally created as a way to help improve the planetarium experience for deaf students, the signglasses project may also have other practical uses – like as a literacy tool.

The BYU team is currently working with researchers at Georgia Tech to explore this idea, which could help deaf students as they encounter new words in books. According to the university, deaf students would be able to push a button and a video dictionary would pop up and project a definition of the word in sign language.

If all goes according to plan and signglasses become a mainstream reality, the product could move beyond BYU and Georgia Tech's campus, perhaps even landing in the hands of Gallaudet University students in D.C.

Story source: Molly Greenberg, In The Capital

Photo: Screengrab via BYU

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