Saturday, August 19, 2017
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Robots that Can Sign

Toshiba's sign language robot can only demonstrate basic greeting. But the company hopes to add sensing, speech synthesis and speech recognition by 2020. Photo courtesy of Toshiba.
Toshiba’s sign language robot can only demonstrate basic greeting. But the company hopes to add sensing, speech synthesis and speech recognition by 2020. Photo courtesy of Toshiba.

Toshiba demonstrated a humanoid able to use Japanese sign language at the Cutting-Edge IT & Electronics Comprehensive Exhibition (CEATEC) this week. Created with researchers from aLab Inc., Osaka University, Shibaura Institute of Technology, and Shonan Institute of Technology, the robot has 43 actuators in its hands but currently can sign some basic greetings.

While the Toshiba humanoid is highly realistic in appearance, it is not the only robot to be able to sign. National Taiwan University’s Robotics Laboratory Nino robot — which garnered media attention in 2013 — can also sign a few words. Both groups ultimately want their robots to not only be able to sign fluently, but also interpret humans signing.

Both signing and interpreting sign pose great research questions, as humans typically sign quickly and fluidly. Developing software capable of efficiently interpreting and making such movements will be a challenge, so it’s good to have multiple teams at work!

 

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