Google has inspired a group of students in Sweden, currently attending Berghs School of Communication, to create a concept design for understanding sign-language in real-time, and so in turn may have inspired the world. The video portraying the application, which at first was thought to be directly from Google themselves, was actually filmed by the students and presented as though the it was directly designed by Google. While Google has said nothing about working on a project of this kind, it is a possibility that the technology giant will pick this up at some point in the future, but has yet to comment. Currently, the best that Google Translate can do is the same thing it does for translation into all other languages, allow a user to type on the device what he, or she, wants to say and then the device just translates what was typed.
This device would change the way that the deaf communicate with the rest of the world. Currently, many people do not “speak” sign-language, and so “signers” are required to type a sentence on a device and then it speaks for them. However, this is time-consuming at best and tends not to reflect the true feelings of the individual doing the speaking. Basically, the idea works like this, a band is placed around each forearm and, using a technology called electromyography (EMG), the bands read the users electrical impulses from their hands, forearms, and the distance between the arms, then transmits them to an application on their smart phone. This application then takes the data and, in real-time, begins translating out loud as the user has a conversation, just like Google Translate audibly speaks the translation of a sentence from one language to another. One of the main goals of the program is to help people enjoy deep and meaningful conversations, which otherwise would not take place. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 360 million people around the world suffer from a disabling loss of hearing.
Even though Google is not currently involved with the idea, the fact that they inspired it, as well as the prospect that the technology could one day exist, creates in many a new hope that their world may soon change for the better. Add to this the fact that 32 million of those mentioned earlier are children, and the idea becomes that much more heart wrenching. One of the major health concerns leading to hearing loss is chronic ear infections. Chronic Otitis Media (COM) can range from 1 to 46 percent of the population in both developed and undeveloped countries around the world, and causes life threatening problems. However, COM is easily manageable through both medical and surgical procedures. In fact, up to 50 percent of all hearing loss around the world is preventable by receiving immunizations, keeping healthy ear cleaning habits, and making sure to get effective treatment for either chronic or acute ear conditions.
Google may have inspired these Swedish students, but that is not the limits of the companies reach. They continue to cause more and more people to be hopeful about the future. That perhaps technology has the power to make lives a little better than before. Google Search has the intuitiveness needed to direct a user to whatever information they are looking for. It essentially knows what you “mean” when you type in a curious search string. Google Translate, currently able to translate between 80 unique languages, has also been a useful tool for many, providing a platform for removing language barriers. Perhaps Google will look into their hearts once again and find a spot for completing the inspired idea that these Swedish students are suggesting, and in turn help make millions of people’s lives and the world, a much better place.
Opinion by Phillip Schmidt