Assistive Technology and OpenCV


Assistive technology (AT) or Adaptive technology refers to technology or devices that assist people with disabilities.  AT provides for a greater degree of freedom and independence by enabling disabled people to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to perform.

Examples of assistive technology include large computer keyboards for visually impaired, Braille buttons in elevators, hearing aids etc. People with learning abilities, for e.g dyslexics find text –to –speech (TTS) technology is useful.

In the context of Assistive technology, OpenCV can be used in multiple ways. OpenCV (Open Source Computer Vision) is a set of powerful APIs that can perform real time computer image processing. OpenCV is being used by many organizations in complex application like biometrics for recognizing fingerprints, face, to medical imaging for detection of tumors and cancerous cells. Applications of OpenCV have also been developed in office security for the detection of intruders to terrain mapping by spy planes and drones. OpenCV is truly a powerful tool for performing complex image processing operation.

One such application of OpenCV is the area of gesture detection and recognition. A successful implementation of gesture detection and recognition can have significant implications. It can be used to interpret sign language, the language of the deaf, and those with motor and speech disabilities.

Clearly the ability to recognize gestures is no easy task. The software has to be trained to initially recognize different gestures of sign language. An image processing tool that can recognize the symbols of sign language will be a boon to those with severe motor disabilities that they can use the keyboard for typing.

Imagine somebody who has motor disabilities being able to use the PC for browsing, accessing social networks all through sign language. Such a tool will really allow such people to live life in a much more regular way.  Assuming the software is powerful enough the disable person will also be able to create documents through sign language.

If the power of OpenCV can be harnessed for gesture detection and interpretation the applications can be manifold. One such application would be sign language which would be a boon for many disabled people.

Added as an afterthought
While the post is about using OpenCV for recognition of sign language to empower disabled people, I think gesture recognition would be really welcome for everybody. Imagine being able to browse websites using gestures, scrolling up/down, going back/forward and pointing and clicking on links by simply waving the hand appropriately. If we could use gestures to flip through TV channels by snapping our fingers or waving left to right or right to left, that would be really cool. The possibilities are endless…

Do read my futuristic short story – The Anomaly for an interesting application of the above technology

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