African Engineer Invents ‘Talking Gloves’ for the Deaf

Herbert Dyer, Jr.
4 min readNov 16, 2019
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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.

How The Gloves Work

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.

Inspiration: People over Profit

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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Going Global

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…



Herbert Dyer, Jr.

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