One thing every species has in common is communication. Man is not an island and in that vein we have to communicate with others. However, it is really difficult for some people because of speech disability or hearing impairment. Sign language has been introduced for these people but sign language is not a general language everybody understands or tries to learn because most people have not seen the need for it so this does not cover the bridge of communication.
Roy Allela, a Kenyan tech-genius that currently works at Intel and Tutors Data Science at Oxford University designed smart gloves that turn language to audio speech.
Each finger has flex sensors, these sensors quantify the bend of the fingers and process the letter being signed. The gloves are connected to an app through bluetooth which then vocalizes the letters.
These gloves have been introduced to special needs schools in the rural area of South-West Kenya.
Speed of speech differs from individual to individual and this is the same for people that sign. With this knowledge, Roy integrated that into the mobile application so that it is comfortable for anyone to use it. The users can also pick native language, gender and even pitch of the vocalization. The accuracy of the result is usually 93%.
His inspiration for this invention is his 6-year old niece. She was born deaf and he feared how she would cope in the real world; in an interview, he said “I was trying to envision how my niece’s life would be if she had the same opportunities as everyone else in education, employment, all aspects of life. The general public in Kenya does not understand sign language, so when she goes out, she always needs a translator. Picture over the long term that kind of dependency, how much that plagues or impairs her progress in life. When it affects you personally, you see how hard people have it in life. That’s why I have really strived to develop this audio translator project to completion”. His niece pairs the gloves to her phone or his then starts signing and he is able to understand what she is saying.
He keeps trying to improve the gloves; the speed at which they translate. Apart from the software aspect, the gloves can be designed in different ways also; from the disney princesses to superhero characters. These cool designs will help to fight the stigma of being deaf.
The prize money gotten from these gloves, this tech-genius is using it to improve the sign language translation app and implement more accurate vocal predictions.
He has hopes of placing at least two pairs in every special needs school in Kenya. This could help a million children worldwide with hearing or speech disability.