Google Gesture concept sees real time translation of sign language [updated]

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Google was behind the Google Gesture arm bands, though it now seems more likely painfully obvious that this is a mock-up project from the marketing students at Berghs. Still, it's an impressive and out-of-the-box idea, no? Original follows.

Google Translate has been around for some time, but there's a new concept that could see Google translating sign language with a pair of arm bands. The bands, as described by students at Berghs School of Communication in Stockholm in coordination with Google, are able to track the motions and gestures of the wearer and translate those instantly into spoken language. They're calling it Google Gesture.

The system would work thanks to the structure of the human body and electromyography (monitoring of electrical activity in the muscles). The muscles that control every joint in your fingers and wrist stretch all the way back to your elbow, and by wrapping an electrical sensor-laden band around the forearm Google Gesture would determine which joints are moving and in which manner.

Once you know that, it's relatively simple to figure out what the wearer is saying, which combined with an app can translate the sign language gestures of the wearer into spoken speech in real time. Combined with Google's already existing translation tools, Google Gesture could even translate gestures from one language into the spoken word of another. It's an impressive and innovative concept for sure, especially if it can be used in so unobtrusive of a manner to potentially revolutionize the communications of the mute.

Source: Berghs School of Communication; Via: Mashable

Derek Kessler

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm (the old one), and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.

  • Thanks Google! I have no idea what it means to use sign to communicate with others. But I am sure this will improve the quality of life for individuals who otherwise will have a difficult time to communicate.
  • This is so crazy I feel it has to be a very late April fool's joke.
  • That's because it was, in 2011. Here's the video:
  • Things like this make it hard to get mad at Google for being overly aggressive with data collection and ads.
  • Wow!! This is just so amazing!! Posted via Android Central App
  • Are you certain this is a real thing? This looks more like a video created for a marketing class. Plus, it's the video is hosted on Vimeo for some reason.
  • WOW. I just had the idea of making something to translate sign language when taking an ASL class in Spring since I've learned that communication between a deaf person and a hearing person (who doesn't know how to sign) can be really hard and tedious.
    Anyways, this looks awesome. Hope it grows further and becomes something helpful for the deaf folks.
    PS. Well, then there's still a chance for me, I'm thinking using our smartphones camera to translate sign language, but a universal one is hard since sign language is different for different countries/regions, even the East Coast has different signs than the West Coast in the US.
  • About 10 years ago, I envisioned using something like Skype to allow sign language interpreters to work piecemeal online so that the deaf could call in and have live interpretation in situations like interviews, doctors visits, or whatever the need. Unfortunately, the infrastructure wasn't really there and I didn't have the business acumen to get this off the ground, even though I had a friend who owned a sign language interpreter's business who was onboard. I know that this exists now, but wish I had the wherewithal to have made it a reality in the early 2000s.
  • I have to add... This is a very niche product. Producing it has very little, if any monetary gain for Google. I can't imagine another company doing this. Microsoft and Apple, with all of their resources, haven't done anything like this. It's amazing. I'm not downing on other companies... I'm just amazed. This is out of the blue and really could serve some people in a big way with no real profit motive. And this is coming from someone who has no problem whatsoever with doing nothing without profit motive.
  • Even a niche product can make a ton of money if you're the only one serving the niche. A company (and it doesn't appear to actually be Google who's working on this) who develops a good engine for translating sign language into spoken language would be able to design products that would be of great interest to educational system, language teaching companies (I'm sure you can see how Rosetta Stone would benefit from this), speech-to-text companies, etc. Or hell, they could just license out the translation engine and let other companies design their own applications around it.
  • There are approximately 1 million deaf people in the United States alone. I'm not sure that making a product that's designed for that large of a population qualifies as niche.
  • Of course, each country would have to have its own gestures, as no 2 countries use the same form of sign language. (Note: There may be some 2 countries out there somewhere that do, but I don't know about them)
  • Wow, the power of Google and their services is just awesome. From my Note 2 to you
  • I like this shit..
  • As a sped teacher, I would buy this. Posted via Android Central App
  • I just don't see how this could work how they want it to. My daughter is deaf but I am in no way proficient in ASL but I do know that it is a language with concepts and facial expressions, not just signs. I just don't see a lot of Deaf people using it. Posted via Android Central App
  • I wondered the same thing. I'm no expert, but isn't there quite a few "dialects" of sign language? That would seem to make this crazy hard, plus motion capturing every single sign...... I'm sure at some point in the future it will work well, probably to the point translation language works now, but I bet the first version sucks a huge one.
    Your dumb if this makes you mad.
  • You guys are jumping way ahead, it has to start somewhere, be perfected then acomodate the need and demands of the user. Most likely it will be a learning capable software or something around those lines. Just the concept alone of this, and it can help a lot of folks its great.
  • Since when does Google use Vimeo to announce products/services?
  • This is most likely not real. The video was uploaded by "Berghs School of Communication" which is a marketing school here in Sweden.
  • This is incredible! Posted via Android Central App
  • I only hope this comes to market I've a son who is special needs and when I seen this video I showed it to his mum she was blown away. I've tried my damdest to learn sign but it's not easy. Also now I need a way to translate my crap attempt at it. from my old note3 which i had to sell my soul for;)
  • Looks like a very sad hoax to me.
  • Amazing idea real or not and this is the kind of thing Google would be on board with..... One of the reasons why I love Google so much they are always looking for ways to make people's lives easier no matter how crazy it sounds they put money where the mouth is. Posted via Android Central App
  • I'm a student at RIT and i would be amazed to see this. My school is home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (or NTID), where a few thousand students that are deaf or hard-of-hearing are enrolled. This makes ASL a must have for basic communication around the campus. The hardest thing i've heard for these NTID students is that the interpretation from lectures is hard to follow at points. With this idea from Google, it almost eliminated any problems that there can be with common ASL communication from an interpreter or even in communication with a person with no ASL knowledge. I would love to see this at my college someday.
  • This concept would be great, but there is no reason to limit it to just sign language. Also couldn't you be able to do this with an Xbox Connect type device with greater degree of accuracy?