Glove Won't Speak for the Deaf

“For years, researchers have worked to improve gloves that can translate American Sign Language into spoken and written speech…. Some members of the deaf community are ambivalent about the technology, which aims to ‘fix’ deafness, a trait they accept and even embrace as culturally unique. Many also are wary of a machine that can translate only a few hundred words — much less the nuances crucial to human communication.” Elisa BatistaGlove Won’t Speak for the Deaf  (Wired)

Early in 2002, I blogged a USA Today story about a teenager inventing a glove that translated sign language. While the more complicated system described above measures arm movements in addition to finger position, sign language also uses facial expressions and whole-body actions. Neither of these systems is capable of capturing that range of meaning (although the technology is beign explored for computer interfaces that turn your body into a game controller — probably a good way to market sports titles).

The play/movie Children of a Lesser God does an excellent job examining the biases that the hearing world brings to its understanding of the deaf world.

Kudos to Batista for doing more than simply writing a cheerleading “ain’t technology great” article (the kind of thingone often finds in Wired).