(Contributed by: Jacob R. and Emily R.)

What is the technology? UNI [2]

Who were the contributors? The UNI was created by the company MotionSavvy INC. This company was founded entirely by deaf students from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). The primary mission of the company is to eliminate communication barriers between businesses and those who are deaf/hard of hearing. MotionSavvy’s investors include RIT Venture Fund, SOSVenture, Wells Fargo, VSC, WeFunder, and Launch NY. Below is a list of the MotionSavvy’s current employees. [2]

  • Danny Cruze (Data Collection) – Danny is a deaf engineer who helped with creation of MotionSavvy’s dictionary of vocabulary. [2]
  • Wade Kellard (Data Collection) – Wade has been deaf since birth and studied Mechanical Engineering at RIT. He is now the data collection manager and co-founder at MotionSavvy. [2]
  • Ben Miller-Jacobson (Machine Learning) – Ben earned a Computer Science degree at RIT. He now specializes in pattern recognition and machine learning at MotionSavvy. [2]
  • Daniel Mooney (Software Engineer) – Daniel graduated from RIT with a degree in Information Technology. He now specializes in data analysis at MotionSavvy. [2]
  • Alexandr Opalka (CTO) – Alexandr studied Computer Science at RIT. He is now responsible for the core technology, architecture and infrastructure of MotionSavvy. [2]
  • Ron Pettengill (CEO) – Ron is an entrepreneur of 5 startups. He was the EVP of Oil, Gas and Coal Wastewater Solutions prior to becoming MotionSavvy’s CEO. [2]

When was it invented? The original technology that supports the UNI has been in development since MotionSavvy was founded in the fall of 2012. [2] The planned release date of this technology was September 2015, and MotionSavvy is currently offering pilot programs for the implementation of UNI at various companies, such as the Rochester Airport. [5, 2]

How does it work? The UNI is a tablet with various features intended to relieve communication barriers between those who are hearing and deaf/hard of hearing. [2] UNI utilizes Leap Motion technology alongside MotionSavvy software to convert the use of American Sign Language (ASL) into spoken English, while also recording the words in written English. [1,5] The UNI comes pre-loaded with an ASL dictionary, but also offers the users a chance to input their own additional signs, and even upload their signs onto the internet. [2, 4] In addition, a microphone along with voice recognition software are used to listen to spoken English and convert that into written English. [3, 4, 5] All of the text that is created is then displayed on the tablet’s screen so that entire conversations are recorded and can be easily accessed by those communicating.  This is the first technology that offers real-time translations from a sign language to a grammatically correct spoken language. [2]

What is the impact? MotionSavvy’s UNI has the potential to transform the employment opportunities available to and the work environment for those who are deaf/hard of hearing. Historically, a majority of companies have been more hesitant to hire deaf/hard of hearing employees due to the communication barriers that may arise, often resulting in deaf/hard of hearing people working primarily in jobs where there isn’t much communication. However, through use of the UNI, conversations between the hearing workers and the deaf/hard of hearing workers would be much quicker, easier, and more accurate. This would ultimately encourage employers to hire more deaf/hard of hearing workers. [3] Theoretically, if this technology was ever extended for use in everyday society, then communication between hearing and deaf/hard of hearing people could be improved across all facets of life. [2]




[1] Buhr, Sarah. “Here’s A Sneak Peek At MotionSavvy’s UNI Sign Language Interpretation Device.”  TechCrunch. TechCrunch, 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 03 May 2017. https://techcrunch.com/2014/10/23/heres-a-sneak-peak-at-motionsavvys-uni-sign-language-interpretation-device

[2] MotionSavvy. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2017. http://www.motionsavvy.com/index.html

[3] Steinmetz, Katy. “Uni: A Device That Could Change How Deaf People Live.” Time. Time, 22 Oct. 2014 Web. 03 May 2017. http://time.com/3529629/motionsavvy-deaf

[4] Szczerba, Robert J. “4 Game-Changing Technologies For The Deaf And Hard Of Hearing.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 21 Apr. 2015. Web. 03 May 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertszczerba/2015/04/21/4-game-changing-technologies-for-the-deaf-and-hard-of-hearing/#766cd30c570a

[5] Tsotsis, Alexia. “MotionSavvy Is A Tablet App That Understands Sign Language.” TechCrunch. TechCrunch, 06 June 2014. Web. 03 May 2017. https://techcrunch.com/2014/06/06/motionsavvy-is-a-tablet-app-that-understands-sign-language


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