A wearable smart interpreter and mobile application for the deaf
How can we make communication between the deaf and hearing easy and accessible?
Communication is the basic foundation of building interpersonal relationships and navigating everyday life. However, communication doesn't come as easy as it should for the deaf community, especially when communicating with hearing individuals. "There are 466 million people in the world with disabling hearing loss. This is over 5% of the world's population." - World Health Organization
Using Pen & Paper Is Tedious For In-Person Conversations
Not Many Hearing Individuals Know ASL
Inaccurate Speech to Text Technology
Masks and Social Distancing Create Communication Barriers
Inaccessible Video Relay Systems For Making Calls
Expensive Hearing Assistive Devices
3D Blender Rigging
Figma, Principle, Blender, Cinema 4D, Adobe Premiere, Adobe XD
4 months (2020)
Smartwatch & Band
Motion detecting bands
Powerful mic and speakers
The Target Audience
Deaf individuals who can read English and ASL
Deaf individuals who only understand ASL
From an uninformed hearing person's perspective, it can be easy to assume if a deaf person can't hear they must be able to read, however, that isn't always the case. "Only 15 percent of white deaf students who graduate from high school, and only 5 percent of African-American and 6 percent of Hispanic deaf high school graduates, read above the sixth-grade level" (Allen, 1994, as cited in Mayberry, 2001, p. 224). Knowing this, Ligo must serve a spectrum of English and ASL reading abilities.
How we did it.
To understand the challenges the deaf community experiences, we contacted over a hundred deaf organizations. 93% of our participants experience challenges in communicating with hearing individuals. View our survey and participant's responses here. Please note, our participants only include deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals who can read and write in English. ASL-only speakers were excluded from our study, despite being one of our target audiences, because our budget limited us from working with an interpreter throughout our project. Based on our user research findings, we identified 5 major pain points.
Larger viewing surface
Our identified pain points directed us to research existing products that solve them. We gained insight on what works and what could be improved. View our full market research here. With our market research complete we formed a PACT analysis to get a full picture of who we were designing for. Two personas were created to summarize our findings:
Ideating a solution
Our product development started with answering some of these key questions:
How will the device capture/read ASL?
How will the deaf user read translated messages?
How will the device communicate with hearing individuals?
How does the device work in a group setting?
How will a mobile application add value to the entire product?
Initial Device Sketches
ASL is a language expressed through hand movements therefore, we focused on creating a product that would reside on the user's hands and/or fingers.
Final Device Sketches & Render
Ligo is inconspicious in design as it resembles everyday smartwatches. Motion detecting bands, comfortable display screen, six powerful speakers and a build-in AI interpreter are intended to assist deaf individuals for every situation.
Designing the mobile application
We created the mobile application's flowchart next to our device's flowchart to map out how both devices and their features could work together.
Mapping and prototyping our user flows show us what exactly our users will experience.
Your Perfect Fit
Customize language preferences, front size, your interpreter's appearance, and ASL speed
Review tutorials on how to use the app and device
Resync your device if connection is lost
Choose English or ASL as your preferred language
Sync Ligo device with the app
Choose English or ASL for your calling preferences
Enter your name
Customize your interpreter
Your Personal Interpreter For Every Situation
View your interpreter on your watch or phone
Ligo can interpret speech, overhead announcements, audio from devices (Zoom, webinar, video, etc.)
Make phone calls without a video relay system or communications assistant
Choose to talk in ASL or English text
Have a conversation 6 feet apart? No problem.
Sign while wearing the Ligo watch and the translated message will be sent to the receiver via Bluetooth
Choose whether the receiver gets your message as audio or text
Eliminates the trouble of lip-reading with mask mandates
During the development of Ligo, we made it our mission to create a product that would genuinely assist the deaf community. However, we realized we had our own assumptions about the deaf community and needed to connect with our target audience to truly understand their needs. Our primary research gave us clear objectives and a better understanding of who we were designing for.
For the future:
Include a deaf consultant in the entire design process
Conduct user testing with deaf individuals to further refine Ligo
Include ASL-only speakers in our surveys and user testing
Include facial expressions (essential to ASL) on our 3D model
Inquire if translating English printed text (textbook, magazine, signage, etc.) to ASL would be beneficial to our target audience