Ninety percent of deaf children are born to parents who can hear, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), and most parents learn ASL along with their children. The learning experience is a team effort. But learning ASL is more challenging when it’s a second language, unlike deaf children who use it as a primary communication. Google Glass and SMARTsign want to close the learning gap.
Google Glass is a new wearable technology which resembles a pair of eyeglasses. The frames don’t have fitted lenses, however—there is a small screen and touch control on the side that lets users see a display as they move about their day. It doesn’t take away any attention from the view ahead. Glass is currently only available to developers and beta testers, but third-party app makers are already scrambling to use Google Glass to the absolute max.
Photo by Flickr user jessica mullen
SMARTsign is an app by the Georgia Tech Research Corporation (GTRC) that teaches ASL through lessons, similar to Rosetta Stone. It also serves as a dictionary where users can type in words or terms and see the matching sign played back to them. This app is available on smartphones now and is great for parents learning ASL with their children.
Now GTRC wants to use Google Glass to streamline the learning process. The company is developing a version of SMARTsign that is virtually hands-free. Glass’ app will push ASL lessons to users as they wear the frames throughout their day. The frequency and type of lessons can be adjusted, but the idea is to make them a seamless part of the day.
The Next Steps
Right now, the Glass version only offers video lessons, but there are plans in the works to bring a “record and search function” in the future. This would let users record ASL gestures while SMARTsign searches for the translation. In the distant future, apps like this could be so refined that they could translate ASL in real time, giving people who have no concept of sign language the ability to communicate with the deaf effortlessly.
Google Glass connects to the Web using a built-in Wi-Fi connection through the user’s home Internet service or a public network. It can also pair with an Android’s 3G or LTE connection. There’s no official release date for Google Glass, but it should be available to the public in 2014.