No matter how Allela’s 6-year-old niece tilts her head to hear, she sees the irritation in her family’s eyes. Roy Allela’s niece was born deaf and found it extremely difficult to communicate with her family. None of her family members knew sign language. The need to communicate and connect with his niece pushed 25-year-old Roy to invent the smart hand gloves.
Dubbed Sign-IO, the gloves have flex sensors that are placed on each finger. These sensors have the ability to quantify the bend of a finger and process the letter being signed.
Sign-IO’s sign language-to-speech translation glove recognizes various letters signed by sign language users. It then transmits this data to an Android application for vocalization.
Using Bluetooth, the gloves connect to a mobile application Allela also developed, which then converts the sign into audio speech.
“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.
According to Allela, the speed of sign vocalization is one of the most important aspects of the smart gloves.
“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,” he says.
How accurate are Allela’s smart gloves?
Through the app, users can set the language, gender, and pitch of the audio voice, with accuracy results averaging 93%.
Allela’s innovation recently won the Hardware Trailblazer award from the prestigious American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) during its 2017 ASME Innovation Showcase (ISHOW) competition.
The young inventor says he is using the prize money from the award to make more accurate vocal predictions. Click To Tweet
Allela is among 16 young Africans who have been shortlisted by The Royal Academy of Engineering Africa Prize for inventors from six countries to receive funding, training and mentoring for projects intended to revolutionize sectors from agriculture and science to women’s health.
The winner will receive Sh3.2 million (£25,000) while each of the three runners up will receive Sh1.2 million (£10,000).”