25-year-old Kenyan, Roy Allela has invented hand gloves which turn sign language into audio speech. The Kenyan innovator says he was inspired by the need to communicate better with his little niece who was born deaf. This is particularly significant due to an increase in the number of deaf people in Kenya. According to reports, impairment in hearing has risen in the past two decades, with data now showing that one out of every 10 people suffers from the problem.

In this time where technology is gradually taking over and innovation is the new order for every economy, Roy Allela has made a name for himself globally with the innovation of his smart hand gloves that help translate sign language movements to audio speech.

The smart hand gloves would be worn by the deaf person and connected through Bluetooth to a mobile application also created by Roy. The gloves have flex sensors placed on every finger that allows it to translate what is signed to audio. His niece had tried it and he was able to understand what she was saying. He also talked about the speed at which the signs are vocalised and how he was able to infuse it into the mobile application.

“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 said.

The young innovator is among 16 shortlisted Africans picked from 6 countries for the Africa Prize for Engineering innovators 2019 by the Royal Academy of Engineering. He and others are being recognised for building such a critical mass of technological support to areas such as agriculture and science, women’s health. The prize also includes funding, training and mentoring programmes.

Allela’s innovation already won the Hardware Trailblazer award from the prestigious American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) during its 2017 ASME Innovation Showcase (ISHOW) competition. He hopes to make more accurate vocal predictions from the prize money.

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