Roy Allela is a 25-year-old Kenyan engineer who has recently received recognition for inventing smart gloves that allow sign language to be translated into audio speech via an Android application. The inspiration behind the creation of these gloves, known as Sign-IO, was Allela’s 6-year-old niece who was born deaf. He noticed she was having a hard time communicating with her family members who did not understand sign language, and she needed to have a translator with her everywhere she went. Now with the help of Sign-IO, Allela’s niece can simply wear the gloves, pair it with any Android that has the mobile application, and start communicating.
“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 says.
The smart gloves have flex sensors on each finger that have the ability to quantify the bend of a finger and process the letter being signed. They are also sensitive to the signing rate of the user and adjust the talking speed to match.
“It fights the stigma associated with being deaf and having a speech impediment. If the gloves look cool, every kid will want to know why you have them on,” says Allela.
Sign-IO has recently won the Hardware Trailblazer award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and Allela says he will use the prize money to make more accurate vocal predictions.