Everyday Heroes

Man's Invention Speaks to the Hearing and the Hearing Impaired

See how his Spiderman-like glove translates sign language into speech.


Roy Allela's young niece was born deaf, so when he thought of the next thing he wanted to invent, it was kind of a no-brainer. Allela, a techno-geek from Kenya wno works at Oxford University in England, is developing a glove that transplates sign language into speech. Check it out:

The glove, called Sign-IO, has flex sensors stitched into it. The sensors read how the person wearing the glove is bending their fingers, and process what letter or word they're communicating in sign language. Then it uses a Bluetooth mobile phone app to "speak" what the glove-wearer is signing.

"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," says Allela told The Guardian . Allela piloted the gloves at a special needs school in south west Kenya to get the speed of conversion right. "People speak at different speeds and it's the same with people who sign: some are really fast, others are slow, so we integrated that into the mobile application so that it's comfortable for anyone to use it." The gloves can also translate in different languages, and even adjust the gender and pitch of the voice to match the person signing.

Bluetooth technology lets the glove "talk."

Allela believes the gloves could be life-changing for the 34 million children worldwide who suffer hearing loss like his niece. "The general public in Kenya doesn't understand sign language so when she goes out, she always needs a translator," he explained to the Guardian. "Picture over the long term how much that impairs her."

"I was trying to envision how my niece's life would be if she had the same opportunities as everyone else."

The gloves recently won the Hardware Trailblazer award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers . Allela is using the prize money to further develop the glove. Allela was also a finalist with the same invention for the Royal Academy of Engineering Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation .

Winning the ASME Trailblazer Award.

Allela still has work to do before his magic gloves are available to the general public. You can support him by contacting him through his website (click here) .

(Images & video: ASME Facebook page , RAE Africa Prize Facebook page )

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