Over 30 million people around the world have some type of speech impairment and that causes communication barriers. Which is why they rely on sign language to communicate and that can create problems with others who are not familiar with sign language. A 25-year-old technology enthusiast from Kenya stayed determined on dealing with and solving the issue. Roy, an employee at Intel and a tutor of data science at Oxford University has created smartgloves that converts sign language to audible speech.

 

Roy's niece, at 6 years old. She was born deaf and has difficulties communicating with her family because they don't know sign language. (Image Credit: African Curators)

The smartgloves, named Sign-IO include flex sensors on each finger that has the ability to quantify it as it bends and processes the letter being signed. The gloves are connected to a mobile app via Bluetooth which converts the sign into audible speech. The speed at which the signs are being vocalized by the glove is one of the most important features because users will want a quick response as the signs are being translated. Users of the app can also set certain preferences that best suit them based on language, gender and pitch of the audio voice with 93 percent accuracy. Customizations for the gloves don't have to end there. They can also be designed to suit the user's interests - whether it's super-hero tailored to the likes of Spider-Main or even princess ones. Those designs on the glove can help to fight off any obstacles the wearer may face with being deaf and having difficulties with speech. It makes it much more comfortable having them on if they look cool and everyone who's curious enough will want to know why they're being worn.

 

The app on the phone allows users to understand what the wearer of the glove is saying with sign language. The phone app uses audible speech to translate. (Image Credit: African Curators)

Roy's invention won the Hardware Trailblazer award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers during its ASME Innovation showcase competition in 2017. Roy also plans on using the money he won from the award to improve vocal predictions by making them more accurate. He also hopes to place two pairs of smartgloves in all the special needs schools in Kenya and believes they will help millions of children around the world who have hearing and/or speech disabilities. Roy's niece was his source of inspiration when creating the gloves - she was born deaf and relies on sign language to communicate with others. Since Kenyans don't understand sign language, she is required to have a translator with her at all times. That type of dependency can make it difficult for people to progress further in life and that's why Roy's determined to complete this project. It would make a huge difference for those who need it most.

 

How the smartgloves work when using sign language. It includes sensors on the fingers and uses a mobile app to transmit data. (VIDEO Credit: CNET)

 

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