Despite the recent controversies over the next version of the Xbox and it's "always listening" features, the Kinect remains one of the most innovative interface tools to enter the home in recent years. A new video just revealed by Microsoft shows off another hidden power of the Kinect system: the ability to read and translate sign language.
The development is the result of a collaboration between Microsoft Research Asia and the Institute of Computing Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Beijing. The Kinect's integrated hand tracking facilitates 3D motion-trajectory alignment which allows the software to translate signed words into text. The system also has another feature called Communications Mode, which allows a deaf person to easily communicate with through sign language with a person with unimpaired hearing.
In order to deliver messages back to a deaf person from someone with unimpaired hearing, the system uses a three dimensional avatar that signs messages clearly. The research is explained in greater detail in a recent paper published by the research group, titled "Sign Language Recognition and Translation with Kinect."
Microsoft often shows off a number of research projects that point to potential commercial products, but this particular development is so powerful that it's likely many will call for it to be fast tracked into the marketplace. You can see the system in action in the video below.