According to a patent filed by Microsoft, Kinect has the potential to give voice to deaf and mute gamers, converting American Sign Language into speech.
“Where the user is unable to speak, he may be prevented from joining in the voice chat,” explains the patent. “Even though he would be able to type input, this may be a laborious and slow process to someone fluent in ASL. Under the present system, he could make ASL gestures to convey his thoughts, which would then be transmitted to the other users for auditory display. The user’s input could be converted to voice locally, or by each remote computer.
“In this situation, for example, when the user kills another user’s character, that victorious, though speechless, user would be able to tell the other user that he had been ‘PWNED’. In another embodiment, a user may be able to speak or make the facial motions corresponding to speaking words. The system may then parse those facial motions to determine the user’s intended words and process them according to the context under which they were inputted to the system.”
The technology could do more for disabled gamers than improve their griefing prowess, as the patent goes on to outline the skeletal mapping system’s ability to distinguish between various bones, joints and even facial features of the human body, from the twitch of a player’s toe to the blink of a single eye. At this point it’s more proof of concept than anything else, as there’s been no confirmation of the sign to speech feature in the finished product. But it’s exciting to see even a small sign that the industry is considering accessibility for all gamers in the development of new technology.