From: 503 (robertj@tekgen.BV.TEK.COM)
Date: Thu Jul 27 1995 - 12:13:48 PDT

Hello again:

     I thought you would find this of interest. I met David Jaffee in (I think( 1987 or 1988.
He has certainly been working hard on his hands. Happy reading.


P. S.

     The Beetles song I Want To Hold Your Hand or the older phraise
"how's that grab you" could take on whole new meanings.
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Date: Thu, 27 Jul 1995 09:19:13 -0700
From: jaffe@roses.Stanford.EDU (Dave Jaffe)
Message-Id: <199507271619.JAA17721@roses.Stanford.EDU>
To: robertj@tekgen.BV.TEK.COM
Subject: Thought you might be interested in this work

A fourth generation fingerspelling hand
David L Jaffe, MS
Abstract - A fourth generation computer-controlled electromechanical
fingerspelling hand called Ralph (for Robotic Alphabet) has been developed
at the Rehab R&D Center (Figure 1). The device offers deaf-blind individuals
improved access to computers and communication devices in addition to
person-to-person conversations. Enhancements in this design include better
intelligibility, smaller size, and the ability to optimize hand positions.
Figure 1. Ralph, the fingerspelling hand.
Background - The majority of the estimated 20,000 adults in the US who are
deaf and blind have Usher's Syndrome, a disease characterized by deafness at
birth and a gradual loss of sight in young adulthood. Most children with
Usher's are brought up in the deaf community, learning sign language and
fingerspelling (and/or speech and lipreading) rather than braille. As their
sight diminishes they resist learning braille, which is difficult to master
as an adult and is an admission of a dual sensory loss. For this reason,
augmentative communication devices employing braille may be inappropriate
for people who are deaf and blind.
Problem - Many deaf-blind people are able to communicate with others by
using a hand-on-hand variation of the American One-Hand Manual Alphabet.
Interpreters for the deaf use this hand gesture system (fingerspelling) to
spell out words for which there are no sign language equivalents. Instead of
visually recognizing the gestures as deaf people do, deaf-blind individuals
feel and interpret the motion and positions of the hand as the message is
spelled out, one letter at a time by the interpreter.
However, fingerspelling using a human interpreter has several disadvantages:
     Both communication partners must know fingerspelling.
     The communication partners must be in physical proximity with each
     Professional interpreters are difficult to locate and schedule.
     The presence of interpreter may intrude on the privacy of a
     Extreme informational and social isolation can occur without
Rationale - An electromechanical hand provides a deaf-blind person some
independence in communication. Such a device typically translates keypresses
or standard computer-produced serial ASCII representations of letters into
movements of the fingers of a mechanical hand. These movements are felt by a
deaf-blind user and interpreted as the fingerspelling equivalents of the
letters comprising a message. They enable the user to receive fingerspelled
messages from the mechanical hand in response to person-to-person
communication as well as gain access to sources of computer-based
information. With a fingerspelling hand, a deaf-blind individual need not
rely on a human interpreter for all communication.
Project goal - The goal of this project is to design, develop, and pursue
commercialization of a fingerspelling hand that is smaller, lighter, and
more intelligible than our previous prototypes. Specifically, this design
implemented an improved mechanical system.
Operation - A sighted person wishing to talk to a deaf-blind individual
interacts with the fingerspelling hand through a hand-held computer via a
serial connection. (Actually, any device that produces RS232 serial data,
including terminals, modems, computers, OCR scanners, speech recognizers, or
modified closed caption systems, could be used to control the hand.) The
user interface is implemented as a menu system that provides easy access to
the unit's various functions, such as displaying and setting the
microcontroller's parameters, testing the hand motions, editing hand
position data, and entering letters to be fingerspelled.
In the fingerspelling mode, keypresses are entered on the keyboard. The
hand's software translates these keypresses into commands for the DC servo
motors. As the motor shafts rotate, they push/pull on the rods that connect
to the fingers' mechanical linkages. It is by this coordinated series of
motor commands that keyboard input is transformed into choreographed motion
representing fingerspelling.
Testing and evaluation - Evaluation of previous fingerspelling hands has
been performed by Gallaudet University (Washington, DC) and AI duPont
Institute (Wilmington, DE). Nine deaf-blind people tested the hands over a
two month period. They identified confusing letter combinations and
suggested improvements for a commercial prototype.
Technology transfer - A collaborative effort with prospective manufacturer
has begun. This activity should result in the production of a commercial
device that can be employed by deaf-blind people.
A potential solution exists for the provision of fingerspelling hands to
deaf-blind people. Within California (and some other states), all telephone
subscribers support a fund which provides telephone access equipment for
persons with disabilities. Commercial versions of this fingerspelling hand
could be furnished at no charge to deaf-blind people under this program.
All encounters with Ralph and previous fingerspelling hands have been
enthusiastic, positive, and at times, highly emotional. The increased
communication capability and ability to "talk" directly with people other
than interpreters are powerful motivations for using fingerspelling hands.
They have the potential to provide deaf-blind users with untiring personal
communication at rates approaching that of a human interpreter.

Dave Jaffe

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