A New Translating Device for American Sign Language

Published on July 22, 2013

Xbox users are no stranger to "Kinect" - a motion sensing input device developed by Microsoft.  Maybe you've experienced the Kinect version of the popular smartphone/tablet game, Fruit Ninja, using your arms to slice through the fruit on the screen, or the dancing mini-game on Star Wars which registers the movement of your entire body and can then rate how well you are completing the moves on screen.

Now, however, Kinect has moved to a whole new level with its latest development - being able to register and translate sign language.


This has always been a forseeable possibility with Kinnect technology.  In the past, it was able to recognize larger gestures, but any sort of detailed translating device has been out of reach... until now. 

 A collaboration between Microsoft Research Asia and the Institute of Computing Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences has enabled Kinect to read, for the most part, every gesture in American Sign Language and then translate it into English or another language.

It isn't just one-word-at-a-time translations, either.  It can recognize full sentences and phrases and grammatically structure the translations to make sense.  It's honestly pretty impressive, and is leaps and bounds ahead of other ASL translating devices in the industry.  While it does require the speaker to stand in front of a TV, one can only imagine what kind of progress this technology will make with time.