25-year-old Kenyan Engineer Invents Gloves That Turn Sign Language into Audible Speech

Roy Allela (Image credits: African Curators)

Prior to 2019, there was a vast communication gap between the deaf and the hearing.

However, thanks to the invention of the Sign-IO gloves by a brilliant Kenyan engineer and inventor, the communication barrier has been reduced.

Roy Allela, a 25-year-old inventor, who worked for Intel and teaches Data Science at Oxford University, invented the Sign-IO smart gloves that have flex sensors and turn hand signals to voice commands.

The gloves have in them sensors attached to each of the fingers. The sensor reads hand signals that the deaf use in communicating which it then interprets into vocal speech through bluetooth via an app.

Allela credits the inspiration behind his trailblazing invention to his then six-year-old niece who was born deaf. He said he was driven by the desire to enhance communication between her and other family members who do not understand sign languages.

“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. Like all sign language users, she’s very good at lip reading, so she doesn’t need me to sign back,” he said in an interview with The Guardian.

Users of the app can set the pace, language, gender, and pitch on the app, therefore making it accessible to people of varying personalities and nationalities.

The Sign-IO gloves was awarded the 2018 grand winner of the “Hardware Trailblazer Award” from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) global finals in New York.

It also received a second runner-up at the Royal Academy of Engineering Leaders in Innovation Fellowship in London.

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