The 25-year-old Roy Allela, from Kenya, has gained global recognition for inventing smart gloves which convert sign language movements into audio speech. Roy is an ambitious technology enthusiast, who currently works at Intel and tutors data science at Oxford University.
He said that the need to communicate with his 6-year-old niece inspired him to build the technology, as she had difficulties to communicate even with her own family members.
The gloves are called Sign-IO, have flex sensors on each finger, which measure the bend of finger movement and process the letter signed. This explores the development of the sign language to speech translation by implementing a Support Vector Machine (SVM) on the Intel Edison to recognize the letters. The signed gesture gets transmitted to an Android application, via Bluetooth, which app vocalizes the letters, through a phone or a device connected to Bluetooth.
Roy has introduced these gloves to a special needs school in south-west Kenya. From their feedback, he was able to understand that the speed at which the language is converted needed improvement. Now, the speed in which the signs get vocalized is the most important aspect of the gloves.
Like people that talk at different speeds, people who sign have different speeds too. Therefore the app has integrated these features and it also provides the users to pick their language, gender and even frequency of the vocalization. Physically they can also be designed in any way or character the kids want them to be, which is done with the purpose to fight the stigma of being deaf, to look cool and increase the curiosity of children and people around.
The gloves achieve 93 percent accuracy results. This innovation won the hardware trailblazer award from the prestigious American Society of Mechanical Engineers during the 2017 competition Innovation Showcase. Roy is using the prize money to make more vocal predictions.
He hopes to be able to put at least two pair of gloves in every special needs school in Kenya and truly believes they could help millions of children with speech or hearing around the world.