Google Glass adaptation opens the universe to deaf students

May 27, 2014
A group of deaf university students developed a system to provide ASL narration to planetarium shows using Google Glass. Credit: Jaren Wilkey/BYU

Ordinarily, deaf students are left in the dark when they visit a planetarium. With the lights off, they can't see the ASL interpreter who narrates their tour of outer space. With the lights on, they can't see the constellations of stars projected overhead.

That's why a group at Brigham Young University launched the "Signglasses" project. Professor Mike Jones and his have developed a system to project the sign language narration onto several types of glasses – including Google Glass.

The project is personal for Tyler Foulger and a few other student researchers because they were born .

"My favorite part of the project is conducting experiments with in the planetarium," Tyler wrote. "They get to try on the glasses and watch a movie with an interpreter on the screen of the glasses. They're always thrilled and intrigued with what they've experienced. It makes me feel like what we are doing is worthwhile."

By sheer coincidence, the only two deaf students to ever take Professor Jones' computer science class – Kei Ikeda and David Hampton – signed up just as the National Science Foundation funded Jones' signglasses research.

"Having a group of students who are fluent in sign language here at the university has been huge," Jones said. "We got connected into that community of fluent students and that opened a lot of doors for us."

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The BYU team tests the system during field trip visits by at Jean Messieu School for the Deaf. One finding from the tests is that the signer should be displayed in the center of one lens. That surprised the researchers, who assumed there would be a preference to have video displayed at the top, like the way Google Glass normally does it. Deaf participants preferred to look straight through the signer when they returned their focus to the planetarium show.

The potential for this technology goes beyond planetarium shows. The team is also working with researchers at Georgia Tech to explore signglasses as a literacy tool.

"One idea is when you're reading a book and come across a word that you don't understand, you point at it, push a button to take a picture, some software figures out what word you're pointing at and then sends the word to a dictionary and the dictionary sends a video definition back," Jones said.

Jones will publish the full results of their research in June at Interaction Design and Children. But his favorite part of the project happens after the test shows end and the high school students just get to talk with his BYU students.

"They see deaf university students succeeding and doing cool stuff," Jones said. "It's really rewarding."

The "cool stuff" the BYU students do comes from a variety of fields. Tyler is certified to use the university's MRI lab and plans to attend medical school. Kei is from Japan, knows four languages and belongs to BYU's nationally-acclaimed animation program.

And though Amber Hatch can hear, this project has furthered her ambitions to become a psychiatrist serving deaf clients.

"This project has also allowed me to utilize my ASL knowledge and to communicate with the deaf community in a way I never really thought possible for me," Hatch said. "It's an amazing project and I am excited to see where it will go in the next year."

Explore further: Brain anatomy differences between deaf, hearing depend on first language learned

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Education system failing deaf children, research shows

Feb 20, 2014

The British education system is neglecting the needs of deaf children, many of whom have major reading difficulties, according to new research led by academics from City University London and funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

Recommended for you

AeroMobil 3.0 transforms from car to flying car

14 hours ago

A flying car is revealed: AeroMobil 3.0 was introduced this week at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna. The current prototype AeroMobil 3.0 incorporates improvements and upgrades to the previous AeroMobil 2.5.

Future air passengers may get unique, windowless view

22 hours ago

A windowless airplane sounds like a claustrophobic nightmare. A windowless airplane with OLED displays, aura-enhanced with subtle cabin lighting from gently glowing walls could be quite something else. Using ...

HaptoMime offers mid-air interaction system (w/ Video)

Oct 29, 2014

HaptoMime gives the word "touchscreen" a new meaning—one that will need to be carefully reworded, as HaptoMime involves a screen that you cannot touch. All the same, it enables interaction with floating ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.