Roy Allela, a 25-year-old engineer from Kenya, has developed Sign-IO gloves, which can translate sign language into audible speech. These innovative gloves use sensors on each finger to detect hand movements, helping bridge the communication gap between deaf and hearing individuals.

These gloves connect via Bluetooth to an Android app that Allela also designed, which uses text-to-speech technology to convert gestures into vocal speech.

In addition to his work on the Sign-IO gloves, Allela is an employee at Intel and teaches data science at Oxford University. He initially introduced the gloves at a special needs school in Migori County, southwest Kenya, with the goal of making them available in all special needs schools to assist as many deaf or hearing-impaired children as possible.

Although the Sign-IO gloves are still in the prototype stage, they have already garnered significant recognition and awards. The invention won the 2018 “Hardware Trailblazer Award” from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) global finals in New York and was the second runner-up at the Royal Academy of Engineering Leaders in Innovation Fellowship in London.

Allela’s inspiration came from his family’s difficulty in communicating with his six-year-old niece, who was born deaf. He explained, “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.”

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