For more than 70 million deaf people around the world (according to data from the World Federation of the Deaf), communicating with people that do not understand sign language is a daily problem. But Artificial Intelligence (IA) could play a large role in solving this situation, thanks to its capacity to convert spoken speech to written text. This is just what the young Peruvian engineer, Leoncio Huamán, is working on; with the aim of helping the hearing impaired to understand what is being said all around them. His system uses an eye piece that screens in real time the words of the speaker using text format. The device is also capable of translating the speech into various languages. It is due to this innovation that Huamán is now a winner in the Latin American Innovators under 35 from the MIT Technology Review LATAM edition.
The full system consists of a microphone that picks up the audio, a Rasberry Pi microprocessor, and a connection to the speech-text translation service through A.I using the cloud offered by IBM. The text processing is executed thanks to an Arduino board, which sends the result to an LED screen. Finally, the text is projected into an eye piece located in the glasses of the user. In addition, the gadget is capable of translating into various languages. His creator details, ”We tried it with the Young and Adolescent Deaf Association of Perú and they received the apparatus with excitement, especially since it was an option that granted them independence from sign language interpreters, very useful for teachers in particular.”
Among the benefits of the device, three stand out: the reduction of costs when it comes to headphones, the social inclusion of people with hearing deficiencies, and the use of open code. Huamán allows other people to replicate and improve its system. Huamán is already in its third version and the objective is “to combine diverse systems so that other communication methods with people who have hearing and verbal disabilities can be complete," explains the engineer.
The researcher for The Investigation Center for Virology and Biotechnology from the Commemorative Gorgas Institute, Panamá, and a member of the jury for the 2019 Latin American Innovators under 35, Sandra López, points out that the project of Huamán “is innovative and excellent, its direct positive impact and its capacity to improve the lives of its users is tangible.”