In my research about space-age universal translators for last week’s blog, I learned about an award-winning invention trying to bridge the communication gap between the deaf and hearing communities. Invented by two University of Washington undergrads, SignAloud, is a pair of Bluetooth-enabled wearable gloves that translate the intricate hand gestures used by American Sign Language (ASL) speakers into text and speech that can be communicated to a listener. Winning the prestigious 2016 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, the SignAloud inventors are working with the deaf community to develop new prototypes that account for ASL’s use of facial expressions, body language, and head movements to infer additional meanings and better communication.
These SignAloud gloves promise to change the future, but let’s glove up and get ready to learn about some of history’s most famous gloves!
c. 70 AD – When in Rome
Pliny the Younger, scribe to his author-philosopher uncle Pliny the Elder, wore gloves during the Rome winters to avoid delaying his uncle’s prolific work. The elder Pliny’s most notable contribution to history is Naturalis Historia, the precursor of modern encyclopedias. Dice fancies the Russian River Brewing Company’s incredible Pliny-themed beers.
16th Century – Fashion of the Queen
Queen Elizabeth I of England brought gloves into high fashion during her reign, donning extravagantly bedazzled gloves that she would perform elaborate routines to remove before audiences to show off her legendarily slender and beautiful hands. In 2010, current monarch Elizabeth II’s official glove maker said the Queen shakes more than 44,000 hands annually!
1928 AD – Four Fingers of Funny
Not long after debuting in Steamboat Willie, Disney mascot Mickey Mouse sported white “toon gloves” to give his tiny, black mouse hands more definition and contrast in the age of black-and-white tech. Mickey’s gloves would influence even non-Disney glove-bearing animated characters like Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker, and Nintendo’s Mario.
1983 AD – HIStory is Made
Michael Jackson, performing during Motown’s 25th Anniversary TV special, debuted two of the King of Pop’s most iconic symbols: his legendary moonwalk dance move and the white-sequined glove on his left hand that would become the signature piece of any MJ-inspired wardrobe. In 2009, Jackson’s original sequined glove sold for $350,000 at auction.
Dice wants to know: Gloves or Mittens? Leave us a message in the comments about your favorite handwear!