Technology Innovations

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Bangalore-based Dhananjai Bajpai, 24, is using the gesture-recognition technology to develop Kommunic8, a wireless wearable device that converts hand motions into speech. The device holds promise of improving communication for over 19 lakh speech-disabled people in India alone. A pilot project is currently being done with EnAble India, Bangalore, to test the functioning and accuracy of the device in the hands of actual users.

Dhananjai, who belongs to Kanpur city of Uttar Pradesh (UP), India, has completed his Bachelor’s in Electronics and Communication Technology degree from Shri Ramswaroop Memorial College of Engineering and Management, Lucknow, UP. He works at KFX Circuits and Systems in Bangalore and is also associated with Excubator, a startup incubator and corporate venturing advisory organization, where he works on Kommunic8 in his spare time. His aim is to use gesture-recognition technology for social benefit.

According to the 2011 Census of India, of the 268+ lakh total disabled population about 19+ lakh people suffer from speech disability. This population struggles not only in communicating with their surrounding environment, but also faces low job prospects that lead to another fight for quality sustenance. Kommunic8 aims to enable this populace to “talk” with anyone without any hesitation. 

Challenges

One of the challenges in bridging the divide between the speech-impaired and the common folks is that the sign language is difficult for a common man to understand and is restricted to the speech and hearing disabled community. Also, there is no standard international sign language that is followed consistently across the globe – each region and culture has its local sign language. These reasons prevent the differently-abled to communicate with others and live their social and professional life normally.

Kommunic8 equips the speech-impaired with a lightweight, wireless wearable ring-shaped device that can convert their sign language gestures into reasonable sentences in real-time and provide output in the form of an audible speech as well as a readable text on the K8 smartphone app.

With 97 percent accuracy and self-learning capability, the current prototype of Kommunic8 can be customized and programmed for any local language.

How it works

Kommunic8 is still in the development phase. Dhananjai began working on the technology in 2013, as a final year project, by creating a wearable glove which could detect the degree of bending of fingers and show respective alphabets on a mobile phone screen as per the American Sign Language. That was just the beginning which got its fair share of media attention. However, the wearable glove had its shortcomings in terms of size, speed, cost, and usability.

 

Initial prototype of Kommunic8

Initial prototype of Kommunic8

The current prototype of Kommunic8 uses a small circuitry packed neatly inside a ring like structure. The circuit uses gesture algorithm and a motion sensor that recognizes the sign and orientation of the user’s hand on which the device is worn. When the user moves or bends his/her hand to make a gesture, the sensor collects information and the software processes it to convert data into a sentence. The sentence is then spoken by a mechanized voice that is made audible through an inbuilt speaker. The same output can be presented in the form of a text on the K8 smartphone app.

The device operates on inbuilt battery that lasts for 10 hours – Dhananjai is working on increasing the battery power to last up to 24 hours. The device can be charged by any micro-USB charger.

The initial device will come with 50 actions predefined for ready use. The software, however, uses machine learning and will keep updating the database of gestures and sentences as the user starts using Kommunic8 regularly. Speaking of the storage capacity, Dhananjai says, “For now, Kommunic8 will come with a memory of 2 GB which can store up to 3,000 actions. This is sufficient, as on average a user may use maximum 100-300 actions in general. However, there is a provision for users to update the dictionary by connecting the device to a computer and make changes through the K8 desktop app.”

The device is supported by the K8 app available for Android and Windows phones that can be used to display the text, configure the device, recreate database and produce the speech output for interactions.  Here is a demo video.

 

 

Next steps

There is still a lot to accomplish before a market-ready version of Kommunic8 is complete. 

Dhananjai has filed a provisional patent for the technology innovation.

Now he is primarily focused on drastically improving the aesthetics of the device and using a more human voice output instead of the mechanized one. He is also working on including a small screen in the device with four push-buttons that can be used to reconfigure, expand and delete the database on-the-go, thereby removing the need for a secondary device for any kind of updates or assistance. 

Meanwhile, Dhananjai is reaching out to non-government organizations that might be willing to support pilot projects and provide sponsorship for further improvement of the device.

EnAble India is using Kommunic8 to:

  • Help teachers learn and improve their sign language and make classroom learning more attractive
  • Empower EnAble associated speech-impaired employees to use Kommunic8 for their daily communication at work.

“Results from the pilot will help me improve the device for the users. I am hopeful that Kommunic8 will allow them to get front-end jobs,” says Dhananjai.

Dhananjai can be contacted at dhananjaisrmgpc@gmail.com and +91-8765379454.

 

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Bangalore-based startup Plustxt has designed a messaging application that not only offers an alternative to standard text messaging, but also allows users to do so in regional language.

Pratyush Prasanna, co-founder of Plustxt Mobile Solutions, is of the view that conventional messaging will soon be redundant. “For the amount of data used for sending an sms, the charges are exorbitant,” says the 32-year-old IIT-Kharagpur and IIM-Calcutta graduate who earlier worked with Microsoft, startup venture Gupshup and Xerox. “With increased penetration of smart phones and data there are other ways to communicate.”

In January, the company launched two apps on the Android platform: Plustxt, an English-language messaging app similar to the globally popular Whatsapp, and Plustxt India, which allows users to communicate in eight regional languages. Within months, the apps have recorded 60,000 downloads encouraging Prasanna and his team to work on versions for other platforms like Apple’s iOS and Nokia’s Symbian.

The regional language app, which the company is focusing on, allows users to combine English with a vernacular language. The user can type out with the regular mobile keyboard and the app transliterates the word to the chosen local language and English. The app is integrated with SMS so an app to app message will be sent over data, but a sms will be sent if the recipient has not downloaded the app. Read more in this report by Radhika P Nair.


A world memory champion and a neuroscientist have joined forces to create a language-learning website called Memrise, which combines mnemonic tricks with a game to help users learn quickly and efficiently. Memrise makes learning a game with virtual gardens that users must tend. As they do, they also earn points and thereby fight their way up a community-wide leaderboard. Read more


Many of us get troubled when we have to use English as a means of communication ¾ in conversation and in writing. Quite often the confusion (more in writing than in speech) is how and when to use or not use the article ‘the’.

A travel website, for example, has displayed a highlighted note for its readers: Log your road travel experiences here. Be sure to include the interesting pictures as well. This is an example of how articles are wrongly used, even on websites that are otherwise well designed and look sleek.

Similarly, “Which is right answer?” “She is the French lady” “The guard failed to catch thief” ¾ these are a few examples of wrong placement/omission of the article ‘the’ which are often used – intentionally or unintentionally.

Arijit, a friend of mine who works as a technical editor in a multinational IT company, feels the problem occurs either because “people don’t know the difference between articles a, an, and the” or because “they are non-native speakers of English”.

Recounting his experience, he says: “People usually use the article ‘the’ with proper nouns, such as names of applications. For example, ‘use the Enterprise Manager’ (it should be ‘use Enterprise Manager’). Or they use it without introducing the thing they refer to. ‘The following scan methods can be used for IOTs that contain the large objects.’ In this sentence, we don’t need ‘the’ as it is a generic reference to large objects and not specific to any large objects that we already mentioned. Disgustingly, ‘He is playing the tennis’ is normal Indian usage.”

His views are shared by Deb, a friend who is a sub-editor for a national magazine. She says, “Many times I come across sentences such as ‘Apart from academic refinement initiatives, school has been organizing several cultural and sports activities.’ The omissions take place even when it is necessary to retain the article. And I think that’s because people haven’t been taught properly at the primary level and therefore they don’t know the correct use of articles.”

Do you also find the use of ‘the’ bewildering? Here are some tips to learn when to use the article.

RULES MADE SIMPLE

The easiest way to use ‘the’ is to remember to use it

  • When you know that the listener/reader knows or can guess what particular person/thing you are talking about. For example, The burger you ate was mine or Did you watch the match?
  • When you have already introduced the person/thing you are talking about. For example, Maya teaches two batches. One in the morning and the other in the evening.
  • When you are referring to specific rivers, oceans and seas and when the word river is omitted. For example: River Nile, the Brahmaputra, River Tapti, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific.
  • Before particular nouns which we know are only one of a kind. For example: the rain, the sun, the Earth, the Taj Mahal, the world, etc.
  • Before class nouns which show one thing as a representative of the class to which it belongs. For example, the fields, the sparrow, the last days of the spring.
  • When you are mentioning a particular person or thing which is the best or most famous. For example, Karim’s is the place to go for fresh kababs. I saw the Taj Mahal when I went to Agra this summer.
  • In place of possessive personal pronouns such as his, her, etc. For example, The eyes twinkled as the baby smiled.
  • When you want to emphasize a word almost equal to its descriptive adjective. For example, Here is the tower that shall remind coming generations of our sacrifice.

DO NOT USE ‘THE’

  • When you talk about things in general. For example, “The trees fell in the storm” mean only those trees fell to which you are referring to, whereas “trees fell in the storm” will mean many trees fell in the storm.
  • When you refer to a sport. For example, My daughter knows swimming not the swimming; Skating is expensive not the skating; cricket is his favourite sport not the cricket.
  • When you use uncountable nouns. For example, I will have coffee not the coffee; She needs information on global warming not the information.
  • Before names of countries and companies except where they indicate multiple areas or union, such as state(s), kingdom, republic, or union. For example, Infosys, Wipro, the India Today Group, Italy, Mexico, India, the UK, the US, and the Netherlands.

Hope these points help. If you have more examples to state or suggestions to use ‘the’ correctly, please share them by writing comments.

FOR MORE READING

Learn English

Lousy Writer

OWL


It is strange how fast things change. Technology is ever evolving and so is language ¾ the change has become constant. In my school days we used to be taught that English language evolved over many years but now there were certain standard forms of words, letter writing, and phrases used in “formal” conversations and writings and denoted the usage of “good quality” language.

Now that school of thought is history. Everything has changed from what I learnt in school and the way I edit/write today. The language style, spellings, punctuation uses, and many such things have changed from the way I understood them in my childhood and used to be grilled in by the teachers. And I am not in my 30s yet!

As an editor, therefore, it has become imperative for me to keep updated with the changes in English language. I have been reading a lot past few weeks about editing lessons and what some of the forums have to say on editing guidelines. I found some good links which I thought it best to share here.

In one of my regular visits to Poynter.org, website for journalists and editors, I happen to click on News University. And that opened a plethora of lessons on editing, writing and what not. A must see.

I registered and took a course on “Cleaning Your Copy”. The course teaches everything an editor needs to be skilled with: Grammar, Style, Punctuation, and Spellings. Each section is a pack of lessons. It also teaches you things like proper sentence construction, active/passive voice, modifiers, pronouns, etc. Moreover, the website offers tips on reporting, writing, management, and everything you can imagine related with journalism and media.

Obviously books are a big help when it comes to editing. Style manuals such as Chicago Manual of Style are followed by most (non-technical) publishing houses in India. But to test yourself or for a fast access to grammar lessons you can visit Protrainco.com. I found this website’s grammar archives very useful. You can get some very good language tips here.

Wanted to provide a Youtube.com video on books editing, but there’s nobody there giving tips on that one.

Here’s one from me: It is always good to keep grooming your language skills and the best way is to keep practicing (conversing) with people who speak the language better and more fluently than you do. And sign up with some good language forums. Hope this helps. I may suggest some such forums next time.

While I go back to reading some more grammar newsletters, enjoy life!

 

Useful Links

Mayfield Handboolk

Good Grammar, Good Style Archive at Protrainco.com


Putting an apostrophe, the standalone single quote punctuation (’), in the right place is a difficult and puzzling task when we write in English.

To many of us it is, I would say, as confusing as the comma.

But there are ways to master the art of placing the apostrophe correctly. Understanding and learning some basic rules of the confusing punctuation can help us reduce our errors faster. (Please note that the following information is based on my understanding and some extra reading, therefore, it is not a complete study on correct use of apostrophe.)

BASIC FUNCTION

Mainly, the apostrophe has two uses in English: to indicate possession/ownership and to show omission of words or numbers (also called contraction).

Apostrophe Showing Possession

Vivek’s bike
Maya’s father
Chandra’s pen
Its (see the explanation for it’s)
The examples show that the punctuation is placed with the possessor and not the object.

Apostrophe Showing Contraction

1990s     = ’90s
Can’t     = Cannot
Hadn’t   = Had not
Hasn’t   = Has not
I’m        = I am
It’ll        = It will (similarly, we’ll = we will)
It’s        = It is (Note: It’s is a short form for ‘it is’ whereas Its indicates possession. For example, It’s great that she finally got a job. The machine works on its own at the push of a button. Therefore, in case of it’s and its, we must identify the function of the apostrophe to place it accordingly)
I’ve       = I have
Let’s     = Let us
Mustn’t = Must not (similarly, shouldn’t = should not, couldn’t = could not)
She’s    = She is/has (similarly, he’s = he is/has)
Should’ve = Should have (similarly, could’ve = could have)
There’s = There is
We’re   = We are/were (similarly, they’re = they are/were)
Who’s   = Who is (Note: Who’s is a contraction of Who is whereas Whose is a possession. For example, Who’s in the other room? Whose desk is this?)
The examples show the contraction of words.

RULES OF POSSESSION-INDICATING APOSTROPHE

  1. A noun is a word that refers to a person, place or thing. A singular noun refers to one person, place or thing, for example: boy, desk, book, etc. To show possession to a singular noun, we mostly add apostrophe and s (’s) (as shown in examples above). Plural nouns (which refer to more than one person, place or thing) that do not end in (s) also follow the same rule. For example: The children’s park, the men’s room, the women’s club.
  2. Common nouns refer to general objects, a non-specific person, place or thing, for example: cars, winter, dog, chance, tables, etc. Both singular and plural common nouns that end in (s) can form the possessive by using only an apostrophe after the s. For example, tables’ legs, cars’ parking. The common nouns that do not end with s will use ’s, e.g., dog’s food, girl’s dress.
  3. Proper nouns (names of people, cities, countries, for example: Sagarika, India, Bangalore) can form the possessive either by using the ’s or simply adding the apostrophe () if the name ends in s. Now it is acceptable to use either form (James’s or James’). For example: Mr James’s car, The Bakers’ cookies.
  4. When you need to show two people owning/sharing the same thing, the apostrophe and s (’s) should be placed after the second person only. For example: Rohit and Veena’s trekking to the forest was exciting. Neha and Shalini’s friend has returned from the US.
  5. If two people do not share/own the same thing, the apostrophe and s (’s) should be used for both. For example: Neha’s mother and Shalini’s aunt are good friends.
  6. Indefinite pronouns are words which replace nouns without specifying which noun they replace, for example: both, few, most, none, some, everybody, nothing, etc. They form the possessive by using the apostrophe and s (’s). For example: everybody’s concern, a day’s work, a moment’s notice.
  7. Many name or terms are either possessive or descriptive. In such cases, we should use an apostrophe and s (’s) if the name is a singular/plural possessive noun or an *irregular plural noun. For example: Levi’s jeans, Westside Women’s Store, Blossoms’ kids wear. [*Most nouns are made plural by adding an s to the singular form. If the noun ends with an s, ch, sh, or x, an es is added to make the noun plural. Plural nouns that are not made plural in this way are irregular plural nouns. For example: men, women, city, etc.]

To further enhance your knowledge about the use of apostrophe, you can read more on the websites under My Pick.

My Pick

Apostrophe

Online Writing Lab


Lately my game fever is back. It is that phase carrying on in which I feel like getting hooked to playing word games – my favourite brain booster.

I think they are a brilliant change from the usual learning tips to improve our vocabulary. Word games such as crosswords, quizzes, puzzles, or text twist are interesting, different and enjoyable. Not only do these games provide entertainment, they help us apply what we have learnt thus far. And playing these games is not restricted to computer or Internet. 

Reader’s Digest’s Word Power section is one of the best vocabulary builder exercises I have read so far. It is a monthly bite. For each answer they provide detailed meaning, origin, and explanation, and that’s their unique style. In fact now there are millions of books and ways in which you can access such games. On Internet, my favourite is East of the Web website’s Eight Letter word game. Wanna play? Visit: http://www.eastoftheweb.com/games/Eight1.html

The Eight Letter game helps you build as many words as you can out of a set of letters, precisely out of eight letters. The sets keep changing as you proceed through different levels. This is exciting! Scrabble just goes a little further by helping you form words by connecting them with each other. If you play it with ‘only dictionary words allowed’ rule, it is a great brain booster.

Another fascinating game is the Text Twister, which makes you race against time, play with a set of letters, shuffle them, and guess more, more, and more.

Some of my friends agree that word games are vocabulary builders. “Of course word games help, how could they not? Crossword puzzles are a favorite of mine. Try easy ones first,” advises Bob, a friend in an online forum of English language, adding, “Read a lot and you’ll eventually pick it up. More important are vocabulary, grammar, and idioms. Read, read, read. Listen, listen, listen. And talk to native speakers as much as you can.”

Another member of the forum says, “Scrabble would probably be most helpful when played with others with a similar command of the language (and skill level). In cryptic crosswords the answers are usually pretty commonplace, obscurity being confined to the clues, but a solver without large knowledge of idioms and phrases will be rather handicapped.”

That is right. But that’s what adds to your knowledge when you try and find out more about what you don’t know. Solving crosswords, puzzles and quizzes with people who have better vocabulary than yours is especially helpful because that is when you get to learn the most. Next time using the newly learnt words in their correct places helps in remembering them forever.

Considering this, social networking websites such as Facebook and Orkut are popular platforms for people from all over the globe to play word games together and learn together. And having played many such, I can say – it is really helpful and loads of fun.

Try some and gain score – in life and in game.

My pick

Crosswords: BBC English Language Quizzes

Text Twist: Yahoo! Text Twist, Eight Letters


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