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Technology and the Deaf:

By: Danielle Shen
1 August 2014


New Tools for the Deaf

Over the last few decades there have been many technological advancements which aid people with different needs.  There are artificial limbs, programs that can read documents aloud and type as you speak, and close captioning for streaming videos.  Now, there is new technology on the market for the deaf, which include motion recognition and new video apps.  

Motion recognition can control your computer with a swipe of your finger in front of your screen and drive cars within a game without holding anything (Pogue, 2013).  How can this new touch-less technology make a bigger change in the world?  The answer has to do with Sign Language.  In order to have a conversation between a deaf person and a hearing person, both would need to write the dialogue on a piece of paper.  With motion recognition technology, however, there is no longer a need for that piece of paper.

Motion recognition is a surreal idea for gaming and creating.  There are many different ways to control a game or program whether it is shaping imaginary clay with your hands or waving your hand.  This new motion recognition is new and exciting to use; however, the controls for attempting to click are different from using a mouse. One might have to hold a finger still over where one wants to click (which can be very uncomfortable) or jab at the sensor or the screen (Pogue, 2013).  Leap Motion has been the most recent talk of motion recognition.  With the device's slim look and brilliant technology, it has been very popular.  The Leap Motion controller is a product created by Michael Buckwald, CEO and Co-founder, and David Holz, CTO and Co-founder of Leap Motion Incorporated, ("About Us", 2014).  The dimensions of the Leap Motion controller are 1.2 x 3 x 0.5 inches.  It has a silver edge, and the top and bottom have two slips of black non-stick rubber.  The Leap Motion sensor plugs into a computer, laptop or Apple Mac with a universal serial bus port, also known as USB.  It can precisely recognize body parts with its cameras and infrared sensors within a two foot by two foot by two foot cube.  It can "see" a person's hands, fingers and joints to recognize motion.  However, the technology is useless without corresponding apps.  Airspace is an online app store for Leap Motion apps ("Our Device", 2014).  Airspace has 75 specially designed apps to be used with the Leap Motion controller (Pogue, 2013).  The Leap Motion Sensor is available for a reasonable price of $79.99 on the Leap Motion website ("Our Device", 2014).  However, there is more the deaf can do with a Leap Motion controller.

MotionSavvy has developed software that is different and specialized just for the deaf.  It is a company started by four deaf students who wanted to create a way for the deaf to "speak," as stated by Ryan Hait-Campbell in his interview with Seth Gerils on i DEAF News on May 24, 2014 ("MotionSavvy", 2014).  The four deaf owners of MotionSavvy are Ryan Hait-Cambell, who is the Chief Executive officer; Alexandr Opalk, who is the Chief Technology Officer; Jordan Stemper who is the Chief Design Officer; and Wade Kellard, who is the Chief Strategic Officer.  In 2013, the founders took third place with the idea of a Sign Language translator utilizing motion recognition software at National Technical Institution for the Deaf Next Big Idea contest at Rochester Institution of Technology.  In January 2014, MotionSavvy was accepted into the Leap AXLR8R program of Leap Motion, a program that focuses on using motion recognition to turn world changing ideas into a reality ("MotionSavvy", 2014).  Currently, MotionSavvy has a Sign Language translator which is in the beta testing phase.  This MotionSavvy product contains a Leap Motion controller that is packaged in a custom case and translates speech and signed motions to a tablet with text bubbles. Ryan Hait-Campbell states that his product would not replace human translators but it would improve one-on-one conversations.  The MotionSavvy translator is nameless and does not have a set release date as of the moment, ("MotionSavvy", 2014).  When this device becomes available to the public, it will be very useful to the deaf community.

Another tool for the deaf is Glide.  Glide is a video app available on several mobile platforms, including Apple iOS and Google Android.   Glide was founded on May 15, 2012 by Ari Roisman, Adam Korbl and Johnathan Caras ("Glide", 2014).  Glide is the first video texting app in the world.  Glide's beta version was launched on Google Android devices in March 2013. It quickly climbed up the app store rankings because of its easy-to-use design and invite system (Perez, 2013).  On the Android Google Play app store, Glide has an average of 4.3 stars out of 5 ("Glide - Video Texting", 2014).  On the Apple App Store, Glide has 4.5 stars out of 5 ("Glide - Video Texting", 2014).  A video messaging app is perfect for the deaf.  One can take a video of signing and facial expressions and send it to another.  Newbie, a reviewer on Apple iTunes states, "This is a lot better than texting. Deaf people cannot express some things through texting. Glide shows everything. I like how u can actually watch it live and record right after" ("Glide -- Video Texting", 2014).  

Motion recognition research and new creative ideas are examples of technology helping the deaf community.  We have already come a long way since the days when hearing people needed to learn Sign Language or have two pads of paper to communicate with deaf people. Hopefully, in the future there will be more innovations to bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing.



Works Cited

About Us. Leap Motion Inc. Retrieved 1, August 2014: <>

Glide. Aol Tech. Retrieved 1, August 2014: <>

Glide -- Video Texting. Apple Incorporated.  Retrieved 1, August 2014: < >

Glide -- Video Texting. Google. Retrieved 1, August 2013: <>

MotionSavvy. MotionSavvy Company.  Retrieved 29, July 2014: < >

Newbie. (2014, Jul. 12). Perfect communication for the deaf. Apple Incorporated.  Retrieved 1, August 2014: < >

Our Device.  Leap Motion Incorporated.  Retrieved 29, July 2014: < >

Perez, Sarah. (2013, Jul. 24). Video Texting App Glide going "Viral," Now ranked Just Ahead of Instagram in App Store. Aol Tech.  Retrieved 1, August. 2014: < >

Pogue, David. (2013, Jul. 24). Leap Motion Controller, Great Hardware in Search of Great Software.  New York Times Company. Retrieved 29, July. 2014: < >

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