All for LoveChinese Woman Invents Sign-language-translation System

November 15, 2017
By Wei XuanyiEditor: Dou Dou

Wang Nana [Women of China/Zhang Ping]


Wang Nana is a postgraduate student at the School of Computer Science and Engineering, under Beihang University (in Beijing). Wang and her partners have invented a sign-language-translation system. Wang hopes the system will help "language-dysfunction people" communicate with people who do not suffer from such dysfunction.

Wang Nana is a first-year postgraduate student majoring in computer science and engineering. In 2015, Wang, who was born in 1994, met Zhang Quan, who had graduated from Special Education College of Beijing Union University. Later, Wang introduced Zhang to Huang Shuang, Wang's roommate. Wang, Zhang and Huang became good friends.

"Zhang is a deaf-mute person. However, I am not able to use sign language. Even if we stand face to face, we need to communicate through WeChat. Sometimes, when Huang and I chat happily, Zhang can only see us chatting. So, I wanted to do something to help Zhang," says Wang.

Wang was surprised to learn there were nearly 70 million people who suffered from language dysfunction (including being deaf and people who suffered from stroke, brain paralysis, head trauma and/or ALS [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis]) in China. She decided to do something for those people.

"Huang and I initiated an image-recognition project in 2015, and we won first prize in the Feng Ru Cup, an annual competition to display students' scientific innovation in Beihang University. I thought the image-recognition technology could be used to help people … translate sign language," recalls Wang. 

"We looked up many essays, and we conducted experiments to demonstrate the feasibility of translating sign language. Then, we found out we could not use the image-recognition technology, as it was not convenient for people to carry a camera with them. Finally, we decided to develop an armband that could collect EMG (electromyography) signals , recognize gestures and then play the corresponding voices," Wang continues.

Wang and Huang created a model of the sign-languagetranslation system. To test the reliability of the model, they wore the armbands and made gestures all day. Later, Wang made contact with teachers at the Technical Institute for the Deaf, under Tianjin University of Technology. The teachers and students at the institute helped Wang and Huang collect data and improve the armband. Employees from the Disabled Persons' Federation of Chaoyang District (in Beijing) offered advice and assistance.

Now, the translation system's database contains 200 gestures. To guarantee the accuracy of the device, every gesture is recorded by 1,000 people. The degree of the accuracy has reached 95 percent.

Since August 2016, several people have joined Wang's team to develop and improve the translation system. Wang and her team in April won the championship and the Popular Award in the final of the 2017 Geek for Good Open Design Challenge. The competition was organized by the United Nations Development Program, the Bureau of Science Communication, under Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Baidu (a Chinese web-services company).

Wang participated in the ceremony to officially open China Artificial Intelligence Town (an incubator for artificial-intelligence projects), on June 9, 2017, in Hangzhou, capital of eastern China's Zhejiang Province. Wang plans to open a company in the town in the near future. That will be an important step in Wang's efforts to commercialize the translation system. In the future, the system will benefit people who suffer from "language dysfunction."

"In the future, we hope our armband will help people with 'language dysfunction' translate sign language, so they can communicate with other people in a better way. We also hope the system will help promote the teaching of sign language," says Wang.


Wang Nana [Women of China/Zhang Ping]

Wang and her team [Provided by Wang Nana]


(Source: Women of China English Monthly August 2017 Issue)

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