UW Students Win $10,000 for ASL Invention

Navid Azodi and Thomas Pryor, from the University of Washington’s Seattle campus, created gloves that translate American Sign Language into spoken word. SignAloud has sensors embedded in the gloves that record movement as the person signs. Pryor and Azodi’s invention landed them the Lemelson-MIT student prize award of $10,000 to further their creation.

According to a video about the technology published by The Verge, Bluetooth is used in SignAloud to wirelessly send a person’s hand motions to a central computer that matches previously recorded data and allows the gloves to recite the words being motioned by a voice synthesizer.

Pryor and Azodi are currently studying Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering and Business Administration.

Pryor, who is originally from Tucson, Arizona, is a researcher in the Composite Structures Laboratory at UW Seattle. He also is the software engineering lead of the Husky Robotics Team.

Azodi, from Covington, has a position in UW Seattle’s student government and also works for Scholarship Junkies. Scholarship Junkies is a free guide to the student scholarship process. Azodi is also an organizer for DubHacks, which is the largest hacking marathon in the Pacific Northwest.

This isn’t the first American Sign Language translator device ever created. For example, MotionSavvy is a two way communication device that uses tablets and a webcam to translate what you do to whoever you’re speaking to, yet it is not as technologically advanced as SignAloud. It is not developed enough to recognize every sign.

Freshman UWT student, Deanna Green, believes this new technology is intriguing. Green took American Sign Language for the three years it was offered at her high school, and remained as part of the club for a fourth year. “My older sister took it and said it was really easy to learn and it’s fulfilling,” she says. “I was really shy during high school and I didn’t wanna have to speak. Sign Language is still speaking but it’s not verbal.”

Green believes this technology will aid those who don’t understand American Sign Language to communicate with those who use it as their only form of communication. Green says, “I have seen some students on campus that do and I’m always intrigued to watch them, these gloves could really help them a lot.”

According to The Verge, “SignAloud is still in development and has a long way to go. The gloves only work for certain words and phrases in American Sign Language. In the future, devices like this may drastically alter how people connect and communicate.”