Sign-IO, Breaking The Language Barrier Between Those Who Are Deaf and Those Who Aren’t​

Kenyan engineer and innovator Roy Allela on how he is contributing to the growing market of assistive technology with his sign-language-to-speech-translation glove.

Did you know that around 466 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss? That 34 million of these are children? Well, Kenyan engineer and innovator Roy Allela, hopes to solve the problem of communication with his sign-language-to-speech-translation glove.

Wishing to contribute to the growing market of assistive technology, the glove, was designed to provide communication that is capable of translating signed hand movements into audible speech via Bluetooth and a smartphone app. Not sure whether it is yet available on iOS, the glove currently uses the Android text to speech engine to vocalise the various predicted gestures.

Although, still in its developmental stages Sign-IO gloves feature sensors that are located on each finger. These sensors can detect the positioning of each digit, including how much each finger will bend into a given position. Connecting via Bluetooth to an Android phone, the wearer of the glove will be able to use the text-to-speech function that will provide translated speech to the hand gestures of a person signing.

Inspired by his young niece who is deaf, Allela told the Guardian, “My niece wears the gloves, pairs them with her phone or mine, then starts signing. I’m able to understand what she’s saying.” Promising to break down the communication barrier between the hearing and non-hearing world, it comes as no surprise that the glove was awarded the grand winner of the “Hardware Trailblazer Award” at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) global finals in New York in 2018. Also, the cutting-edge project received second runner-up acknowledgement at the Royal Academy of Engineering Leaders in Innovation Fellowship in London. It is this note, that we look forward to seeing great things from this Kenyan innovator.

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Founding editor-in-chief of, Muchaneta is currently one of the leading influencers writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology. She has also given talks at Premiere Vision, Munich Fabric Start and Pure London, to name a few. Besides working as a fashion innovation consultant for various fashion companies like LVMH Atelier, Muchaneta has also contributed to Vogue Business, is a senior contributor at The Interline and an associate lecturer at London College of Fashion, UAL.