Design Spotlight: The Gloves that Speak Sign Language


Quick. When’s the last time you had a conversation in sign language?

If you’re like the majority of Americans, your answer to that is most likely “never”. Maybe you learned a little in elementary school– enough to perform a song, or say the alphabet– but unless you’re deaf yourself, or have a deaf family member, chances are you never learned to converse. The hearing community tends to rely on the deaf to be able to lip read, or to have an interpreter. This is in spite of the fact that between 500,000 and 2 million Americans communicate primarily in ASL. In fact, more Americans use Mandarin Chinese in their daily communication than ASL. Many family members of the deaf don’t even learn ASL. The question remains: why not?

Well, that question may be about to become moot. Thanks to an enterprising pair of undergraduate students at the University of Washington, the hearing impaired and the hearing-privileged may finally be able to communicate freely and easily, without any of that pesky learning curve.

They call their invention “SignAloud”. The idea is so simple and elegant that it’s a wonder no one came up with it sooner: a set of gloves which translate sign language gestures into audible speech. As recently as 10 years ago, devices like these would have been seen as sci-fi flights of fancy, but as computer technology continues to decrease in size, technology is able to advance that much quicker.

The gloves are lightweight, with sensors throughout the fingers and a computing system around the wrists. The sensors detect gestures and translate them into speech. The goal is to make them as lightweight and ergonomic as possible, allowing them to become an everyday use item, such as glasses or a hearing aid.

While right now, the gloves can only translate a few hundred words, the future is bright. With any luck, we will see this device hit the market soon, and open up a whole new world of communication.

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Tech Trends: Special Delivery – Who needs a Gas Station?

It seems the world can’t get enough of Silicon Valley startup apps. From Paypal to Uber to Slack, it seems we as a whole are ready for all of our day to day tasks to be relegated to our smartphones. While we are a solid seven years past “There’s an app for that”, it seems it is truer now than ever. But many of these apps aren’t just making life more convenient for a select few. Companies like Uber are up-ending the entire taxi industry and reshaping economies. As the landscape of day to day life rapidly shifts, lawmakers, established industries, and other entrepreneurs all scramble to keep up. Perhaps no where is this truer than in the emerging “gas on demand” industry.

Over the last year, several startups in California have begun developing apps and fleets to deliver gasoline straight to your car. It’s a little pricier than getting it from a gas station; while the gas prices will be calculated based on the cheapest stations available in your area, all of the apps charge an additional delivery fee, which can sometimes add about 50 cents per gallon. Still, the service has become quite popular throughout California for those who value convenience over saving a few dollars.

Technically, gasoline delivery on this scale is not permitted by many city and county fire codes. These entrepreneurs don’t seem perturbed, though, and see what they are doing as paving the way for new legislation which would allow their businesses, similar to the legal processes happening with regards to Uber. Some of these companies have more stringent safety protocols than others, though, and legislation would help to bring them all up to a standard which is safe for the road.

So, would you pay extra for gas to avoid having to go to the gas station? While the scope of these companies is currently limited to large cities throughout California, and a few others scattered through the country, it will likely not be long before they are within everyone’s reach. Let us know what you think in the comments.

Tech Trends: Holoportation


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Ever since the invention of the internet, it’s become easier every year to stay in touch with old friends, family, and even your business contacts. But most would agree that talking to someone through text, the phone, or even a Facetime call can’t compare to being in the same room as someone. There’s something special about the intimacy of a physical space that a screen just can’t capture.

But what if it could?

Even in the early days of sci fi, we have imagined elaborate technologies that would allow us to be present in two places at once. From the simple blue-tinted holograms of “Star Wars” all the way up to the titular avatars in James Cameron’s “Avatar”, it seems science fiction has covered all manner of methods to travel across nations, and even planets, without the actual travel part.

Well, it seems we might finally be there. New 3D capture technology, combined with virtual reality headsets–which are finally becoming affordable for consumers–have opened the door for Microsoft’s Holoportation, Microsoft version of a hologram. Microsoft’s system is expensive requiring a room full of specialty cameras–but most new technology starts out that way. It isn’t hard to imagine a future where our home, office, schools, even our self driving car incorporates Holoportation technology. If you both have the cameras and headsets, you can interact with each other like you were really in the room together. Applications could range from business to international relations to personal use. Imagine world leaders being able to go to peace talks in “war zones” with no fear of danger, simply by turning on a program. Imagine enabling a Solider to see their child’s first steps, or read their kid’s a bedtime story, overseas in a warzone as if they were in the same room. The implications are far reaching, with the ability to port ourselves anywhere, even the need for conventional transportation would significantly reduce. Imagine for a moment the effects on life as we know it!

What would you do with it?

So how does it work? The program uses a series of cameras to create a 3D image of the subject, and the objects in their room. When you put on a VR headset and connect, you can experience the space as if you were there with the person. Just be careful not to sit on a holo-couch if you don’t have a real one in the same spot.

Still confused? See it in action here:


Rapid Randomness: The 3D Printed Dress

When you think about 3D printing, the last thing you probably think about is “fashion”. Not so for Nervous System, however, a leading company in creading 3D printed “cloth”, accessories, and more.


The company has created a process using 3D printed “petals” to create a cloth-like material which can be made into clothing. The video above shows the intuitive process by which users can design a dress just for them.

Don’t get too excited just yet–at the moment, just one dress can run you $3000. But the company is always looking for ways to bring down the price, and they have a wide variety of stunning 3-D printed jewelry available for purchase through their website.
So what do you think? Will we all be running around in 3D printed jumpsuits ten years from now? Or does that sound too uncomfortable? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
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Tech Trends: Project Loon


There’s nothing worse for most people in today’s world than a spotty wi-fi connection. It interrupts your work, your play–even some applications you don’t even realize you rely on can be impacted by a faulty wireless connection. But, many people forget that, as annoying as .1kpbs per second downloads are, there are large swathes of the world with little to no access to the internet at all. These areas tend to be low-income, rural, and forgotten by mainstream society. With information access being redefined as a human right, the gap between those with internet access and those without has served to reinforce power imbalances as old as society, creating an ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots.

Enter Project Loon.

Google, ever determined to usher us into the future of our collective imaginations, has begun an initiative to bring internet access to the most remote areas of the world. This project could mean that billions of people in regions like India could gain internet access for the first time. It isn’t hard to imagine a future where all of our internet operates on satellite systems as opposed to the underground and undersea wiring system we have used since the ‘net was born.

The “Loon” in Project Loon is short for ‘balloon’, referring to the weather-balloon-like apparatus used to keep the transmitters in the air. They are deployed to 20km over the Earth, in that ambiguous area between space and the atmosphere. Perhaps in the future, this technology will be upgraded to full-on satellites as opposed to the balloon-sattelite-hybrid seen here.

What do you think of this new technology? What will the internet look like when its population suddenly swells by, potentially, billions of new users? How will this change the economic landscape of the net? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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Rapid Cut Feed

Welcome to Rapid Cut Pulse, where we share what has us talking this week. Let us know in the comments what strikes your interest!

3D Printing News:

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