Designers from Japan have developed a novel concept that could help aid the communication of millions of people worldwide who suffer from hearing impairments, alongside those who do not understand sign language. And it is in the form of jewelry.
The Sign Language Ring is a set of jewelry that has been created by designers from Asia University in Tokyo, Japan. It is a system that can translate sign language into either voice or text.
The jewelry, inspired by Buddhist prayer beads, consists of a set of six rings and a bracelet.
When the rings are worn on the fingers of a person gesturing sign language, the rings are able to pick up on the person's motions and translate these into words.
These words are then sent to the bracelet, which is able to "speak" them. The bracelet also consists of a text panel, which displays the spoken words so the user can read them if required.
Users of the Sign Language Ring can also pre-record their movements and gestures and assign appropriate words, meaning they are able to "customize" gestures to their own preference.
In terms of storage, the rings can be clipped around the bracelet after use.
This novel creation has already won the 2013 Red Dot Award for best design concept - an annual competition for new design concepts and prototypes. From this, the Sign Language Ring is currently on display at the Red Dot Museum in Singapore.
Promising new developments for hearing
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are around 360 million people worldwide who suffer from disabling hearing loss. Of these, 328 million are adults and 32 million children.
Figures such as these emphasize the need for developments that could better assist hearing-impaired individuals in their everyday lives, and the Sign Language Ring is not the only concept in the pipeline with the aim of doing just that.
An article from GigaOm Pro last year - a company made up of over 200 analysts that look into emerging technology concepts - notes that there is increasing interest in "embedding jewelry with technologies that can enhance social functioning for those with disabilities."
Author of the article, Jody Ranck, writes that new "wearable" technology concepts that could potentially assist those who are hard-of-hearing include glasses with built-in hearing aids and earbuds that can be attached to sensors at a table in a bar.
Ranck says these technologies could help the user to block out noise, meaning they will hear only relevant conversation.
Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also approved a new development from Sonitus Medical called the SoundBite Hearing System.
This is a prosthetic hearing device that is worn in the mouth like a denture, and produces the perception of sound by replacing the function of the middle ear, cochlea or auditory nerve.
Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a study detailing the creation of the small genetic patch that was found to partially restore hearing and balance in deaf mice.