Rochester native Glasser ’19 (computer science), ’23 Ph.D. (computing and information sciences) has always known that a typical 9-to-5 job wasn’t for him. For nearly two decades, he has immersed himself in assistive technologies research for deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
“Speaking from personal experience, it can be challenging for deaf and hard-of-hearing students to find support services, such as sign-language interpreting and captioning, at other universities,” said Glasser, who returned to RIT for his Ph.D. “RIT/NTID does this so well. I was able to offload those responsibilities and focus solely on my research.”
His research focuses on personal and home assistant devices, such as Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant, that utilize voice-command queries to perform and automate tasks that users would have done themselves. Many deaf and hard-of-hearing people don’t use their voices but use sign language, rendering these devices inaccessible.
Glasser notes that while these devices have improved their accessibility for people who speak slowly or quickly, have speech impediments, or even strong accents, they are still not usable with deaf and hard-of-hearing speech. “There is no way for natural sign language input, and that is a huge barrier.”
As a result of his research, Glasser hopes that one day these devices will visually recognize sign language, receiving and understanding commands using artificial intelligence and machine learning—and be able to determine nuances and tone in sign language, which is a visual-spatial language.
“Voice-control is becoming an increasingly ubiquitous interface to technology, and progress in sign-language recognition may enable these devices to respond to sign language,” said Glasser. “Through my work, I have established deaf and hard-of-hearing user interest in this technology, investigated how they would like to interact with these devices, and what this interaction looks like. I am hopeful that the future will bring us many exciting technologies that help improve deaf and hard-of-hearing sign-language users’ quality of life.”
Glasser, who now lives in Olney, Md., is searching for a tenure-track teaching and research position that will allow him to continue his passion, while influencing the next generation of deaf and hard-of-hearing researchers.
“I go back-and-forth regarding my future plans, but I do love working in academia,” he said. “I feel prepared by my experience at RIT/NTID, and we’ll see where this road takes me.”