Assistive Technology Start-up BrightSign, Gives Voice To Those Who Cannot Speak

BrightSign, the assistive technology start-up, has found a way of liberating individuals who are non-verbal.

BrightSign is a startup that hopes to give voice to the 70 million sign language users globally. Founded by Saudi designer Hadeel Ayoub, BrightSign has come up with a smart glove complete with a companion app that tracks hand motions to produce speech from sign language that could be the solution for non-verbal individuals. It wasn’t long before the rest of the world caught wind of Ayoub’s wearable tech device. Soon the smart glove appeared on BBC’s The One Show, won countless awards and was even written about in The Guardian and Forbes.

Hadeel Ayoub
Founder of BrightSign Hadeel Ayoub [Image Credit: Forbes via BrightSign]

BrightSign, An Innovation To Facilitate Communication

Ayoub light bulb moment occurred when she was sent a video of a 14-year-old boy on a train who was quietly signing with his hands, but nobody could understand what he was trying to say. This was the moment that she decided to evolve the glove that she had come up with during her Masters, which was still in its most primitive form, into something that would help give a voice to those who can’t speak. So as part of her PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London, she began researching the assistive technology. “My thought process was simple. If I can make that kid’s life better, let me see what I can do,” she told the Big Issue magazine.

BrightSign Smart Glove
BrightSign Smart Glove

Unlike most assistive technology available to speech-disabled people, Ayoub has found a way of bringing the costs of the handmade device down from thousands to just hundreds. “I realised the devices already available which provide even basic help are very expensive, starting at £2,000,” Ayoub says. “They also lack customisation – but everyone is different, every disability is different.” It is an achievement that will ensure that BrightSign technology is available to everyone who needs it for a fraction of the cost of other devices.

“I realised the devices already available which provide even basic help are very expensive, starting at £2,000″.

Each device is handmade by Ayoub and takes around a day to build from start to completion. Her hands-on approach meant that the 36-year-old was able to see the value in using 3D printing facilities to build parts that encapsulate the hardware and to also print child-friendly designs on the glove. Besides working with children, Ayoub also worked with adults who lost their ability to communicate due to suffering a stroke. Using AI and adding a translation API that allowed the user to switch between verbal and signed, she was able to find a solution that allowed the woman she was working with to make up her own signs. “As long as they were consistent, we could make something work with machine learning software,” explained Ayoub in an interview with Big Issue.

Hadeel Ayoub
Hadeel Ayoub wins at Tech Playmaker Awards [Image Credit: Tech Playmaker].
BrightSign’s appeal is that it is fully customisable. An essential feature for Ayoub who felt that the smart glove should be able to be personalised for custom hand gestures because she believes that everyone is different, every disability is different. “We have developed working prototypes which we have tested with children and sign language users and have a fast-growing list of schools and parents waiting for our first product’s launch date”, states their site.

ALSO READ: New Smart Glove Turns Sign Language Into Text and Speech

Ayoub, who has fearlessly taken on the male-dominated space of health care and wearable innovation, is looking to launch next year. But first, BrightSign is looking for funding. The financial aid will help those on the waiting list, currently, around 700, to receive the device which could make it possible for them to hear the words ‘I love you’ from their deaf child for the first time.

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Founding editor-in-chief & WearableTechStylist of FashNerd.com, Muchaneta has worked in the fashion industry for over 14 years. She is currently one of the leading influencers speaking and writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology and a regular contributor to digital news sites like Wareable.