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Amazing Assistive Technologies to Help People with Hearing Impairment

A lot of work and research has been done to find ways to improve life for the deaf and hard of hearing community. Here you’ll find some interesting technological developments that could help them.

KinTrans 3D Camera

For the deaf and hard of hearing community it is really difficult to continue a full conversation. But if there is a technology that’s able to turn sign language into voice or text, and voice into text or sign language, all in real-time, then it will be a life changer for them. That’s what a Dallas-based startup called KinTrans has developed.

KinTrans is a smart tech capable of translating sign language into voice and text, and voice taken to text or sign language automatically. “What makes this technology exciting is the ability to open up conversations between signers and speakers in the marketplace, workplace, schools, health care, and civic centers”, Catherine Bentley, co-founder and business development officer at KinTrans, told Digital Trends.

This is how KinTrans will automate sign language into text; Image Source: youtube.com

This tech relies on a 3D camera which tracks the movement of a signer’s hands and body when they sign out words. When requested, it can then translate the signed words into written English (or, currently, Arabic, although additional languages will follow in the future). Alternatively, voice can be translated into signed words communicated by an animated avatar on the screen. According to its creators, the system is already able to recognize thousands of signed words with an accuracy of around 98 percent.

Smart Gloves

If you don’t like the idea of being watched and analyzed by a camera, then don’t worry! Researchers of University of California San Diego, developed low-cost smart gloves able to automatically translate American Sign Language (ASL) into digital text which appears on a corresponding computer or smartphone.

“There are other gesture-recognition gloves out there, but ours is the first to use extremely simple components that can be replicated by other researchers in the field of stretchable, wearable electronics to test their materials”,  Dr. Darren Lipomi, head of UC San Diego’s Lipomi Research Group, told Digital Trends.

Smart Glove prototype; Image Source: youtube.com

To use the glove, the wearer simply need to sign out letters in the ASL alphabet, which are then recognized due to variances in electrical resistance. One of the best features of this solution is its low price, making it a potentially affordable solution to a challenging problem. The components in the smart glove add up to less than $100 in cost.

While it’s still a research project for now, we can imagine that price coming down further with mass production.

Next-gen Transcription Technology

We now have advanced speech recognition, speech-to-text technology for the people who have hearing problems that transfers speech to text. These are getting better day by day. But it’s not always useful for situations in which there are multiple people speaking, such as in a group conversation setting. It becomes really difficult for those technologies to extract the speech and tell whose speech was what.

SpeakSee campaign and microphone testing; Image Source: vimeo.com

A new Indiegogo campaign called SpeakSee, created by Netherlands-based entrepreneurs, uses individual clip-on microphones and beamforming technology to isolate specific people’s speech and filter out any background noise.

As a result, conversations are transformed into script-like transcripts, in which different speakers are highlighted in unique colors. These can then be read on an accompanying tablet or smartphone. This definitely solves the problem of multiple people speaking together in a very effective way.

Solar Ears

There are close to 400 million people worldwide with a hearing loss-related disability. There are also hearing aids there to solve their problem. But the problem is that the cost of the devices and their atteries can be out of reach for many people they would otherwise be able to help.

Solar Ear hearing aids; Image Source: solarear.com

A possible solution can be Solar Ear, a solar-powered hearing aid, whose batteries are designed to last 2-3 years, compared with the 7-10 days of a common battery. It’s considerably cheaper than regular hearing aids, too.

Hearing Through Skin

Most hearing aids are ear-based. A research project from neuroscientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, wants to change that with the help of a vest which allows deaf people to “hear” through their skin.

Dr. David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas showing the device; Image source: youtube.com

The main concept behind this is that the device collects incoming audio via the users’ smartphone and then translates this into specific vibrations the wearer can feel on their skin. The hope is that, over time, users will learn to process these vibrations as information in much the same way that a blind person could learn to read via the tactile bumps of braille. You won’t find this device in the market as it’s still an ongoing project.

Featured Image Source: medium.com

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