Today, more than 70 million people communicate using sign language. Despite this, sign language users have yet to benefit from robotic innovation. Thanks to a team based in Antwerp, this is changing. Over three years, the group combined 3D printed parts to create a robotic arm called Aslan (Antwerps’s Sign Language Actuating Node) that can translate spoken words into sign language. At the moment, Aslan is currently only programmed to communicate using the style of sign language native to the Netherlands. In future, developers plan to add another robotic arm to improve the complexity of messages. This could enable the inclusion other languages too.
According to the team, Aslan isn’t designed as a replacement for human translators. Instead, it aims to bridge communication divides. Aslan’s ability to do this could be hugely helpful in situations where understanding one another is vital, for instance medical consultations or any other important personal meeting. Aslan also has applications within the retail and service industries, as well as in education as a demonstrative learning aid.