Japanese Medical talking glove

Alexander Chen, Harrison Chen.

Date: Feb 1,2011


While I was in high school, one of my close relatives had an unfortunate stroke. After a series of emergency rescue, her life was saved but the stroke left her body paralyzed and also took away her ability to talk. The only part of her body she have some control with, is her right hand.

During the years, I have always imagine myself in her shoes. It must be a very difficult mental challenge to not be able to express ones feelings for such a long time. I was helpless and lack of a solution until one day in my ECE516 lecture taught by Prof. Steve Mann. In class, Prof. Mann was talking about a single handed keying device used for performing music and typing English characters. It was then I thought, if my relative can have such a device enable her to type out her feelings, her world will never be the same. It was the first time in my life that I actually can use my engineering skills to help others and make a difference in their lives. It was absolutely amazing.


This project used photo resistors as the input sensor. Arduino Mega is used to collect input data from the sensors and send corresponding signal the computer. The computer collects signal sent by Arduino and display corresponding audio and video feedback to the user.

Photo Resistors

Photo resistor is a variable resistor that will change its resistance according to the light intensity in the environment. This project takes advantage of such property to perform key selection for the user. Users are expected to block the light source from the photo resistor by touching the sensor. This action will be interpreted as a key trigger by Arduino processor loaded with our algorithm.

Due to our target user’s physical constraints, photo resistors are chosen over regular press button. The photo resistor not only provides a nice touch experience for the user, but also proofed to be a more robust sensor. It won’t detach or lose its bounce like regular press button would over time.

Audio & Visual Feedback

After Arduino Mega processor figure out what key were pressed, it will send the corresponding signal the computer. The algorithm from the computer will collect the signal sent by Arduino and perform audio and visual feedback.

The computer performs audio feedback by playing the sound of the corresponding character input by the user. This instant feedback provides a friendly alert to the user what key has been pressed. Visual feedback are performed by simply printing out the Japanese character input by the user.

Japanese Character Structure

Without knowing much Japanese, I spent sometimes with my grandfather and figured out there is about 80 Japanese character that are used more frequently in daily conversations. In order to avoid installing 80 light resistors on a signal gloves, I structured all these characters with a certain pattern that only requires 15 light resistors.

This particular pattern of input mechanism not only saves a lot of space on the glove, but also very easy to remember since it matches the Japanese language structure perfectly.

Portable Photo Resistors

Since the target user does not live in Canada, it was not easy for me to get all the medical information I need to design the glove. Information such as hand size, finger mobility etc. is important information I don’t have access to. After making the first prototype with fixed sensor position, I found out that the user is not able to reach certain keys with her finger.

Therefore, in my second prototype, I designed movable sensors which will not only allow you to move them around when you need to, but also stay still after you decided the perfect position for all your characters.

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