Twenty-five-year-old Kenyan engineer and innovator, Roy Allela, has created a set of gloves that will ultimately allow better communication between the deaf and their hearing friends, family or colleagues who haven’t yet learnt sign language. The Sign-IO gloves have sensors on each finger that can detect the positioning of each finger when shaping to form signs and translate the signed hand movements into audible speech via Bluetooth to an Android phone.

The young engineer’s inspiration came from his personal experience with his deaf niece. She can now connect the gloves with a phone then start signing and her family and friends can understand what she’s saying.

The invention is an exciting concept and would definitely support communication from sign language to spoken language. As with all technology, it needs to be used sensibly and not be used to replace humans – i.e. the belief that the technology will replace the need for communicating directly.

And it will need to consider two-way communication and how the deaf person is then communicated back to.

Where I feel the need is most prevalent is precisely where the inventor has intended – in the developing world; where deaf children rarely get access to communication, as due to the lack of schools available, they will mostly be amongst hearing peers and are often isolated at school. This feeling of Isolation is also prevalent at home – as families have little education, no access to information and no knowledge about the educational options for their deaf child.

I will certainly be following this cause with interest, as it will be fascinating to see what happens next.

These are the sorts of projects I am super interested in for the future!