Two college students who have been working hard on a project were recently pleasantly surprised when their efforts resulted in a $10,000 prize. Navid Azodi and Thomas Pryor (both sophomores from the University of Washington), won the Lemelson-MIT student prize in the “Use It” undergraduate category (which “recognizes technology-based inventions to improve consumer devices”) for inventing a pair of gloves that detects and translates American Sign Language. The name of their invention is “SignAloud.” From NBC News:
The gloves are worn on both hands and contain sensors that record movement and send data wirelessly via Bluetooth to a central computer, which interprets words and phrases through a speaker.
“They are a lot more ergonomic,” Pryor told NBC News. “Some devices use video input for gesture and others have impractical sensors all over the body. We wanted to focus on something that consumers would buy.”
Azodi, who suffered a seizure as a baby and didn’t speak until he was seven years old, saw a problem that he felt he could address with technology. As a child he relied heavily on non-verbal communication. When he met Pryor in a technology lab in their freshman year of college, the two realized that they could work together to address the problem. The gloves that they have developed are in the early stages, but are lightweight and cost about $100.
Since the prize was announced, the students have received inquiries from investors and manufacturers, some offering technical support.
But they caution that the gloves are just an early prototype and work still needs to be done before they are ready to market.
In the meantime, Azodi and Pryor are using some of their prize money to help offset their college tuition, so they can continue to develop the gloves.
Congrats to this innovative team! If this is what they’ve developed by the young age of 20, they will certainly have a lot to offer the world in the years to come.