3D printing and robotics have been used more and more frequently to create a prosthetic arms for children and veterans. However, the implications of robotics haven’t been stretched too much outside of that. We’ve seen a ‘dancing robot’ and compliant mechanisms, but what about applying it to help others? Project ASLAN does just that. When graduate students Guy Fierens, Stijn Huys and Jasper Slaets. at the University of Antwerp recognized a shortage of sign language translators, they developed Project ASLAN, or “Antwerp’s Sign Language Actuating Node” helps to interpret for those who do not have access to a human interpreter.
ASLAN is a robotic arm that can sign letters and numbers, or ‘fingerspell’. The arm is composed of 25 individual 3D printed parts, with 16 servo controllers connected to an Arduino glove. It is taught gestures through the of a special glove.
This is a huge breakthrough for sign language, but currently the functionality is limited. Many signs require the use of two hands to create complex gestures. However, the team hopes to incorporate a second coordinating hand and an emotive robotic face eventually. In the arms may be able to recognize signs via webcam as well.