February 9, 2023

Kenyan Innovator Creates Smart Gloves That Translate Sign Language Into Audible Speech

25-year-old inventor, Roy Allela, is using his passion for modern technology to change lives – literally. 

The tech enthusiast and data science tutor at Oxford University has invented smart gloves called Sign-IO to make communicating with the deaf community effortless.   

Despite over 300 sign languages being spoken by 70 million people worldwide, only a tiny proportion of people worldwide understand them. This lack of understanding has created a barrier between the deaf community and the rest of the world. 

Allela was inspired to create the gloves after experiencing first-hand how difficult it was to communicate with his 6-year-old niece, born deaf. 

“My niece wears the gloves, pairs them to her phone or mine, then starts signing, and I’m able to understand what she’s saying,” Allela said in an interview

The game-changing gloves use flex sensors on each finger to convert sign language movements into audio speech. Each sensor quantifies the bend of the fingers and processes the letters being signed. Genius, right? 

Users can connect the gloves to an app via Bluetooth once synced; the app converts the movements into letters, simplifying the communication process on both sides.   

According to reports, approximately 70 million people worldwide have some form of hearing impairment. Despite sign language being the most effective way to communicate with the deaf community, only a small proportion of people worldwide understand it. 

This lack of understanding has created a barrier between the deaf community and those who do not understand sign language. Kenyan inventor Roy Allela is hoping to solve this with his latest invention. 

“People speak at different speeds, and it’s the same with people who sign, so we integrated that into the mobile application so that it’s comfortable for anyone to use it,” added Allela. 

The inventor has also introduced the invention in special needs schools in rural areas in Kenya to make it easier for teachers to understand their students. 

Through the app, users can pick their native language and even the vocalization pitch. The results are also 93% accurate, says Allela

Roy’s smart gloves have caught the attention of multiple publications. The Kenyan inventor even won an American Society of Mechanical Engineers award.  

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Kumba Kpakima

Kumba Kpakima is a reporter at POCIT. A documentary about the knife crime epidemic in the UK got her a nomination for the UK's #30toWatch Young Journalists of the Year.