African Engineer Invents ‘Talking Gloves’ for the Deaf

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Roy Allela is a 25-year-old engineer and inventor from Kenya, who has invented gloves that can translate signed hand movements into audible speech.

Yes, Allela’s invention allows deaf people to “talk,” or actually verbalize their thoughts, to people who do not “speak” sign language.

Allela calls his invention the Sign-IO gloves. These gloves have sensors mounted on each of the five fingers which detect that finger’s movements, including how much a finger bends. The gloves themselves connect via Bluetooth to an Android app (which Allela also invented), and which uses a text-to-speech function to convert the finger and hand gestures into audible, vocal speech.

Allela decided to invent this device because of his family’s frustration at their inability to communicate with his born-deaf, 6-year-old niece.

“My niece wears the gloves, pairs them to her phone or mine, then starts signing and I’m able to understand what she’s saying,” explains Allela.

But how does his niece — or any other deaf person — “know” or understand what their hearing partner is saying to them?

“Like all sign language users, she’s very good at lip reading, so she doesn’t need me to sign back,” Allela told The Guardian.

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Not surprisingly, this brilliant young man also works for Intel and teaches data science at London’s Oxford University. He first presented his amazing gloves at a special needs school in rural Migori county of south-west Kenya. His goal now, he says, is for his invention to get into every school for special needs children in order to assist as many deaf or hearing-impaired children as possible.

The Sign-IO gloves are still in the prototype stage of development; but they and he have been recognized as nothing short of revolutionary and life-changing. He’s received many awards and prize money which has helped him further tweak and improve his gloves. In 2018, Allela was the grand prize winner of the “Hardware Trailblazer Award” from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) global finals in New York City; and a second runner-up at the Royal Academy of Engineering Leaders in Innovation Fellowship in London.

Eventually, Allela’s Sign-IO gloves will, of course, be made available on the world market. At that time, they will join a plethora of sensor-based devices “expected to generate revenue of around $30 billion by end of 2024,” according to Global NewsWire.

For more information about Roy Allela and his amazing invention, please visit his website:


Yes, yes, yes.. We all must celebrate this young man’s achievements. He is a now a world-renowned and obvious genius (as opposed to our self-described “very stable genius” — couldn’t resist that one).

I cannot not also notice that he is obviously black and African. I also will not and cannot pretend, therefore, to be “colorblind” here and just praise him for coming up with such a practical, user-friendly, and much-needed solution to an age-old, universal and thoroughly human problem….Again, I will not act like I don’t notice that the man is black….Why not?


Each and every single time I run across stories like Mr. Allela’s, I cannot help but wonder how many cures for cancer and other horrible diseases and conditions have been lost; how many life-saving devices and techniques or labor-saving gadgets have never been invented; how many brilliant ideas and deep philosophies and ideologies and “thought experiments” have never been discussed, conducted or come to fruition; how many essays, articles, books, plays, recipes (for goodness sake), and even constitutions have never been written — all because of the inhuman, inhumane, brutal, uncivilized, and evil 500-year reign of white supremacy, white racism, and white nationalism.

I have argued for many years that there is no problem, big or small, on this earth — political, social, cultural, economic, and/or environmental — which cannot and will not be solved unless and until white supremacy is finally, totally destroyed, root and branch, once and for all time to come.

Feel-good stories like Mr. Allela’s only make me lament not only what could have been, but what should have always been all along!

Freelancer since the earth first began cooling. My beat, justice: racial, social, political, economic and cultural. I’m on FB, Twitter, Link,

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