Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice | Election 2020

This ‘Smart Glove’ Can Translate Sign Language

UCSD researchers hope to use this technology for virtual reality, medical robots


Credit: Timothy O'Connor/UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

Above: A "smart glove" prototype developed by a team of UC San Diego engineers is seen in this undated photo.

You have heard of smartphones and smart watches. Now, UC San Diego researchers have built a "smart glove" that can translate sign language gestures into text displayed on a mobile device — all for less than $100.

UC San Diego researchers have designed a "smart glove" that can turn sign language into text that can be wirelessly transmitted to mobile devices, all for less than $100.

The glove is outfitted with sensors that stretch over the user's knuckles, detecting the different gestures that represent letters of the American Sign Language alphabet. A small computer on the back of the glove is then able to take that information and transmit it via Bluetooth to a smartphone or laptop, where it is displayed as text.

"We actually used just a sporting glove, like a golf glove," said UC San Diego nano-engineering PhD student Timothy O'Connor, the first author on a new paper published Wednesday describing the glove.

O'Connor said using cheap materials was important for demonstrating the real-world usefulness of this technology. For the stretch sensors, O'Connor said, "The material we're using is printable, which makes it even more low-cost."

Sign language turned out to be "very handy for advancing our system," O'Connor said. But he said he and his colleagues in Darren Lipomi's lab at UC San Diego see the glove's ability to translate ASL as just one of many potential applications that would rely on finely tuned tracking of subtle hand motions.

"We're looking into applications in virtual reality, and applications in other types of medical fields — maybe the human control of medical robots," said O'Connor.

Another possibility raised in the researchers' paper is the creation of a smart glove capable of remotely controlling the hand of a bomb-defusing robot.

UC San Diego 'Smart Glove'


San Diego News Matters podcast branding

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Curious San Diego banner

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.