Lending a helping glove

Four engineering students painstakingly designed a glove to help people with speech and hearing disabilities

Published: 04th August 2016 11:15 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th August 2016 11:15 AM   |  A+A-

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Students of Amrita School of Engineering’s Amrita Robotics Research Lab (ARRL) have developed a ‘smart glove’ called MUDRA which converts hand gestures based on Indian sign language into spoken English, which helps speech-impaired individuals to communicate more effectively with others. A team of four BTech students — Abhijith Bhaskaran, Anoop G Nair, Deepak Ram and Krishnan Ananthanarayanan achieved this.

Abhijith says, “The glove is much cheaper compared to similar gesture—sensing products available today. The prototype took us 16 weeks to build and cost `7,500. The glove can currently recognise numbers from 1—10 and Indian sign language gestures corresponding to words such as morning, night, goodbye, thank you, etc. It can detect four different states of each finger and as many as 70 gestures can be configured. The glove is now in the advanced stage of the production cycle. We have begun validating its social feasibility. The preliminary results are encouraging.” The team intends to conduct field trials once it has designed user experiments with all possible conditions and permutations.

The students faced many challenges while developing the glove. Initially, they intended to use a camera-based device, but it proved to be bulky and expensive. After much research, flex sensors were tested, refined and integrated with the glove to recognise four different positions of each finger. The design of the glove was crucial as a stiff hold was required on the fingers. A range of values were calibrated precisely for each specific position of the finger and the rest was filtered out.

The movement of the hand posed another challenge. Although the inertial measurement unit (IMU) offered values, these were not accurate owing to noise, so filtering techniques were adopted for precision. Since differentiating between various orientations and movements of the hand with only one sensor was proving to be difficult, the students developed a novel method of state estimation.

“According to the 2011 census, 12 million Indians have some kind of speech or hearing disability. They face many issues in society being unable to communicate normally or express themselves effectively. They communicate through sign language and hand gestures which are often ridiculed by others, creating social insecurities in them. Students have developed MUDRA to help bridge this gap,” said Dr T S B Sudarshan, research head of Amrita.

H R Nandi Vardhan who mentored the students said, “MUDRA can be reprogrammed for a range of applications in which motion-sensor technology plays an important role, such as gaming stations, remote control of devices, robotics and medical industry. It has great potential because of its simplicity and powerful algorithm.” MUDRA is lightweight and can be worn like a riding glove. It recognises hand gestures in all directions and angles using flex resistors, accelerometer and gyroscope. The output is transmitted as speech through in—built speakers. The unique feature of the glove is cost effectiveness without having to compromise on quality and efficiency.

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