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Sign-IO, using technology to propel inclusion.

Sign language, for ages, has been a means of communication for Deaf people whether congenital or acquired. There are close to about 70 million Deaf people around the globe, who use sign language as their first language. The family and friends of Deaf people particularly learn how to sign to facilitate communication, with a few others learning sign language in their free time to become interpreters, or simply out of interest. Deaf sign language users make up about 0.1% of the whole population in any given country, not nearly enough to help bridge the communication barrier in society.

Man with gloved hand up

'Sign-OI is an assistive wearable technology that translates sign language to speech''.

One such inventor bridging this gap is Roy Allela, with his invention of the Sign-IO gloves. Roy is of Kenyan descent and is establishing a name for himself in Africa's tech industry. Sign-OI stands for Sign-Input-output and was inspired by the desire to communicate with his niece who was born deaf. He created Sign-IO while his niece was just six years old and in time discovered that this condition not only affected his niece but many people worldwide.

Roy is a software engineer, intel programmer, tech enthusiast and a data science tutor at Oxford University. He earned a degree in Microprocessor Technology and Instrumentation from the University of Nairobi and is part of a group of young African engineers who are altering the technological sector in Africa and around the world with their groundbreaking discoveries.'Sign-IO comprises a pair of gloves which capture the sign language gestures and a mobile app paired to the gloves via Bluetooth'. The mobile app vocalises the signed gestures in real time into audible speech. He also considered how fast these words would be pronounced and made a few adjustments, so it has a desirable speech speed that many can understand.

A smart phone in hand

'Sign-IO comprises a pair of gloves which capture the sign language gestures and a mobile app paired to the gloves via Bluetooth'.

His interest in technology and innovation started when he was a child. He was always inquisitive and spent many of his early years disassembling and reassembling electronic items. He pursued a degree in Microprocessor Technology and Instrumentation at the University of Nairobi due to his natural curiosity and technical talent. Roy used his undergraduate experience to hone his talents in programming and hardware design and began building his innovations. His invention, Sign-IO was tested in a deaf school in a rural area in Migori in Kenya. The school children who tested the gloves helped Roy make better analyses of the data which helped improve the glove's usage.

Sign-IO won the hardware Trailblazer award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) ISHOW and the People’s Choice award from Pitch Palace. A great feat for Kenya and all of Africa. Roy was also placed as the second runner-up for the Leaders in Innovation Fellowship, a partnership between the Kenya National Innovation Agency (KENIA) and the Royal Academy of Engineering in London.

Headshot of a middle aged man

This revolutionary invention will go a long way to propel inclusion using technology and help ease communication around the world. Sign-IO enables seamless communication between sign-language users and non-sign-language users and would help the deaf in improving their self-expression. With the necessary support and assistance, He believes his invention can help millions of deaf children across the globe.

Data science has the potential to completely transform a wide range of industries, from healthcare to finance. Particularly passionate about the application of nursing technologies to address pressing issues, Roy believes the goal of his invention is to assist people with communication impairment in communicating with the rest of the world, thus greatly expanding the inclusivity of people with hearing disabilities.

Here at ACE, we believe in representation and inclusivity, hence we celebrate Roy for spearheading change by advocating for a group that is marginally represented; using his invention. We also celebrate his passion for humanity and technology which ultimately birthed his invention.

Check out more from Roy below:

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