Exone end to end binder jetting service

3D Printed Robotic Sign Language Interpreter Helps Bridge Communication Gap

INTAMSYS industrial 3d printing

Share this Article

When I was in high school, I worked as a camp counselor for a summer camp at which many of the children were hearing impaired. I learned quite a bit of sign language while working at that job, but I’ve forgotten much of it by now, which makes me sad – it was so helpful to be able to communicate with people who were incapable of hearing spoken words. I believe that sign language should be much more widely taught than it is now, because there is a shortage of sign language interpreters in the world, resulting in communication barriers between hearing people and hearing-impaired people.

Three engineering students from the University of Antwerp are very aware of this communication barrier, particularly in Belgium where there are very few people fluent in sign language. Guy Fierens, Stijn Huys and Jasper Slaets decided to use their engineering work to come up with a technological solution to the problem.

“I was talking to friends about the shortage of sign language interpreters in Belgium, especially in Flanders for the Flemish sign language,” said Huys. “We wanted to do something about it. I also wanted to work on robotics for my masters, so we combined the two.”

Rather than trying to facilitate the implementation of sign language training programs in schools across the country or the world, which would be a massive project, the students decided to create a robot that could communicate through sign language instead. With help from a robotics teacher and an ENT surgeon, as well as fellow students, they started Project Aslan, which stands for Antwerp’s Sign Language Actuating Node.

The project began three years ago, and today Project Aslan has produced a 3D printed robotic arm capable of converting text into sign language, including finger spelling and counting. It’s not just specific to Belgium, either – Aslan will be available in more than 140 countries, thanks to 3D Hubs.

“A deaf person who needs to appear in court, a deaf person following a lesson in a classroom somewhere. These are all circumstances where a deaf person needs a sign language interpreter, but where often such an interpreter is not readily available,” said Erwin Smet, the robotics teacher who worked with the students on the project. “This is where a low-cost option, like Aslan can offer a solution.”

The students decided to use 3D printing for the robot because of its inexpensive cost, which would allow for affordable production and an easy way to replace parts if they broke or needed updates. They partnered with 3D Hubs because of the organization’s broad reach. The first prototype consisted of 25 3D printed PLA parts, which took 139 hours to print, plus an Arduino Due, 16 servo motors, 3 motor controllers and several other components. Full assembly takes about 10 hours.

Aslan works by receiving information from a local network, then checking for updated sign languages from around the world. Messages can be transmitted by users connected to the network, and the robot’s hand, elbow and finger joints are activated to convey the messages. The robot isn’t intended to be a replacement for human sign language interpreters, rather a helpful tool that can fill in when human interpreters aren’t available, or to offer assistance in sign language classes.

Although the robotic arm is now functional, the project is ongoing. Future work, to be carried out by new masters students at the University of Antwerp, will include creating a two-arm design as well as adding facial expressions to the robot. Students will also look into the possibility of using a webcam to teach new gestures to the robot, involving the movements of the shoulders and face in addition to the arms.

Once the robot has reached a more advanced level,  the design will be made open source. You can learn more about Project Aslan here. Discuss in the Project Aslan forum at 3DPB.com.

[Images: 3D Hubs]

 

Share this Article


Recent News

GE Additive Partnership to Establish BEAMIT Metal 3D Printing Powerhouse

Design for Disruption: 3D Printing Design for Installation



Categories

3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns


You May Also Like

Dream 3D Printing Soonicorns: Essentium, ICON & More

As of July 2021, 291 companies achieved the coveted mythical $1 billion status, far surpassing any previous year’s peak, according to financial platform Crunchbase. With 2021 proving to be a...

Massive 3D Printed Park Erected in Shenzen, China

Forget the mutually reinforcing buildup of their respective militaries – the real battle between the United States and China is in the field of 3D printing! You’ve probably heard of...

Featured

3D Printing Innovator’s Roundtable Webinar: Ditching DfAM and Embracing Design Freedom

In an industry where change is constant and unpredictable, professionals across the manufacturing industry have turned to additive manufacturing (AM) to overcome design and supply chain challenges. But conventional AM...

Startup Accelerator, Singapore: Dental 3D Printing, Services, and More

This is the eighth article detailing the 3D printing startup scene in Singapore. Teehee Dental Works Teehee Dental Works is a dental lab and dentist with a difference. Along with...


Shop

View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.