The concept isn’t new, but UCLA’s prototype gloves are more comfortable and far less bulky than other designs, the researchers said. Better still, the parts only cost about $50 and could drop even more with large scale production, UCLA assistant professor Jun Chen told Fast Company.
It’s still a prototype and needs to be faster and understand more signs to be practical. However after a few more years of development, it could allow deaf people to communicate more easily. “Our hope is that this opens up an easy way for people who use sign language to communicate directly with non-signers without needing someone else to translate for them,” said Chen.
Critics within the deaf community weren’t quite as impressed, saying deaf signers already have tools to help them communicate. “It would be so much easier if tech focused on user-driven and user-centered design in the first instance,” deaf post-doctoral researcher Gabrielle Hodge told CNN. However, it could also serve as an educational tool. “We hope it can help more people learn sign language themselves,” said Chen.