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A tablet that translates sign language into spoken word

Tablet turns sign language into speech 01:30

By some estimates, 360 million people -- that's over 5 percent of the world's population -- live with a disabling hearing loss. Thirty-eight million live here in the United States. To try to bridge the communication gap between deaf people and those who can hear, a completely deaf team of entrepreneurs developed software to work with motion-sensing technology that can translate sign language.

CNET's Kara Tsuboi talked to Ryan Hait-Campbell, CEO of San Francisco-based start up MotionSavvy, which created Uni, a tablet case embedded with motion-sensing technology that captures sign language and translates it into text.

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Hait-Campell was born deaf into a hearing family, so he understands the unique struggles of the hearing-impaired. "It's no mistake that many deaf people struggle with communication throughout their whole lives," he told Tsuboi.

That's why he developed the translation software that powers the Uni.

Using Leap Motion, a motion-sensing technology, a camera senses the movements of hands and fingers, down to individual joints, from up to a foot away. The software then interprets the signs, checks them against a growing database of signs and translates them into spoken word. To enable true conversation, the software will also transcribe spoken word into text so a deaf person can read it.

"We think that it's the perfect level of accuracy for these more complicated interactions that require precise, nuanced hand positions," said Michael Buckwald, co-founder and CEO of Leap Motion.

The MotionSavvy Uni is available for preorder on Indiegogo for around $200. It's expected to ship at the end of 2015.

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