University of Houston students in UH’s engineering technology and industrial design programs developed the concept and prototype for MyVoice, a device that reads sign language and translates its motions into audible words. They are now seeking funding to bring the device to market.

The development of MyVoice was through a collaborative senior project for engineering technology students (Anthony Tran, Jeffrey Seto, Omar Gonzalez, and Alan Tran) and industrial design students (Rick Salinas, Sergio Aleman, and Ya-Han Chen). Overseeing the student teams were Farrokh Attarzadeh, associate professor of engineering technology, and EunSook Kwon, director of UH’s industrial design program.

MyVoice’s concept focuses on a handheld tool with a built-in microphone, speaker, soundboard, video camera, and monitor. It would be placed on a hard surface where it reads a user’s sign language movements. Once MyVoice processes the motions, it then translates sign language through an electronic voice. Likewise, it would capture a person’s voice and can translate words into sign language, which are projected on its monitor.

The industrial designers researched the application of MyVoice by reaching out to the deaf community to understand the challenges associated with others not understanding sign language. They then designed MyVoice, while the engineering technology students had the arduous task of programming the device to translate motion into sound.

“The biggest difficulty was sampling together a database of images of the sign language. It involved 200-300 images per sign,” Seto said. “The team was ecstatic when the prototype came together.”

“This wasn’t just a project we did for a grade,” said Aleman, who just graduated from UH. “While designing and developing it, it turned into something very personal. When we got to know members of the deaf community and really understood their challenges, it made MyVoice very important to all of us.”

MyVoice won the first place prize at the recent American Society of Engineering Education – Gulf Southwest annual conference.

Although the student developers have all graduated from UH, they are continuing to develop MyVoice and find investors that will help bring it to market.

SOURCE: University of Houston