This 25-Year-Old Kenyan Engineer Created A Glove That Turns Sign Language Into Audible Speech

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

Communication between a deaf person and those who do not understand sign language can be a serious challenge, but this Kenyan engineer’s invention may make that a thing of the past.

Roy Allela is the engineer and innovator behind a set of gloves that translate sign language into audible speech, according to Because Of Them We Can.

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The Sign-IO gloves use artificial intelligence-enabled sensors to convert signed hand movements into speech on a mobile device, allowing it to be understood by anyone who does not know how to interpret sign language.

The sensors are placed on each finger and can detect the positioning of each finger, as well as how much each finger bends during communication, according to Capetalk.

This information is then sent to any Android phone via bluetooth and converted to text through an app.

sign language
Jacques Wilson, who is deaf, giving a lession in sign language to children at a school. AP Photo – Dieu Nalio Chery

The 25-year-old was motivated to invent the solution to better communicate with his niece, who is deaf, AllAfrica reports.

His niece is now able to communicate with her family without struggling as much as she did previously.

While still at the prototype stage, Allela hopes to have the gloves in special needs schools across Kenya in the near future, he told The Guardian

Allela works as a program manager at Intel in Kenya. He graduated from the University of Nairobi with a degree in microprocessor technology and instrumentation, BlackEnterprise reports.

Sign language gloves recognized

His innovative gloves have received recognition from U.S. and U.K. organizations.

The invention was the grand winner of the Hardware Trailblazer Award at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers global finals in New York in 2018, according to TheForeMag.

The Sign-IO gloves invention is shortlisted among for the 2019 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

Allela is among 15 other engineers vying for prize money which could assist in furthering their innovations, with the winner walking away with $32,000, while three runners-up will be awarded around $12,800.