Human-Computer Interaction Institute
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University


Real-Time Depth-Based Hand Tracking for
American Sign Language Recognition

Brandon Thomas Taylor

August 2018

Ph.D. Thesis


Keywords: Sign Recognition, Hand Tracking

There are estimated to be more than a million Deaf and severely hard of hearing individuals living in the United States. For many of these individuals, American Sign Language (ASL) is their primary means of communication. However, for most day-to-day interactions, native-ASL users must either get by with a mixture of gestures and written communication in a non-native language or seek the assistance of an interpreter. Whereas advances towards automated translation between nmany other languages have benefited greatly from decades of research into speech recognition and Statistical Machine Translation, ASLs lack of aural and written components have limited exploration into automated translation of ASL.

In this thesis, I focus on work towards recognizing components of American Sign Language in real-time. I first evaluate the suitability of a real-time depth-based generative hand tracking model for estimating ASL handshapes. I then present a study of ASL fingerspelling recognition, in which real-time tracking and classification methods are applied to continuous sign sequences. I will then discuss the future steps needed to expand a real-time fingerspelling recognition to the problem of general ASL recognition.

138 pages

Thesis Committee:
Daniel Siewiorek (Chair)
Anind K. Dey (Co-Chair)
Roberta Klatzky
Carolyn Rosé Rose
Asim Smailagic

Jodi Forlizzi, Head, Human-Computer Interaction Institute
Andrew W. Moore, Dean, School of Computer Science

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