A team of engineering students from the University of Antwerp are building a humanoid robot that will have the ability to translate speech into sign language. Sponsored by the European Institute for Otorhinolaryngology, the robot titled Project Aslan aims to support the short supply of sign language interpreters across the world. The project uses 3D printing combined with readily available components to make the robot affordable and easily manufacturable. Using 3D Hubs, a network of 3D printing services the Aslan robot will be able to be produced in over 140 countries. The project started in 2014, when three masters students (Guy Fierens, Stijn Huys and Jasper Slaets) saw there was a large communication gap between the hearing and Deaf communities. They felt modern technologies could offer a solution to help bridge that gap, especially for situations where there continues to be a lack of support for the Deaf community. Stijn Huys outlines the beginning of the project: I was talking to friends about the shortage of sign language interpreters in Belgium, especially in Flanders for the Flemish sign language. We wanted to do something about it. I also wanted to work on robotics for my masters, so we combined the two.”

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