GOOD

A Kenyan inventor's niece was born deaf so he made a glove that turns sign language into speech

via Honor Africans / Twitter

The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.


Recent advancements in communications technology such as text message and messenger apps have made it easier for the deaf community to communicate with people who hear. However, a new development out of Kenya looks to take things a step further by allowing deaf people to use their natural language, sign language, to communicate with everyone, face-to-face, in real-time.

Roy Allela, a 25-year-old Kenyan technology evangelist who works for Intel and is a data science tutor at Oxford University, has a six-year-old niece who was born deaf. She had difficulty speaking with her family because they didn't speak sign language.

So Alella got to work developing smart gloves that instantly translate sign language into speech.

via Conteur Josh / Twitter

"The general public in Kenya doesn't understand sign language so when she goes out, she always needs a translator," he told The Guardian. "Picture over the long term that dependency, how much that plagues or impairs her progress in life … when it affects you personally, you see how hard people have it in life. That's why I've really strived to develop this project to completion."

RELATED: The World Health Organization declares war on the out of control price of insulin

The gloves – named Sign-IO – have flex sensors attached to each finger. The sensors are programmed to understand letters when they're being signed. The signals are then sent app via Bluetooth technology to a mobile app that converts the letters into vocalizations.

"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," says Allela. "Like all sign language users, she's very good at lip reading, so she doesn't need me to sign back."

The gloves recently won to the hardware trailblazer award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He is currently on the short list for the 2019 Africa Prize for Engineering.

Allela tested the gloves at a school in rural Migori county in Kenya where he figured out how to trouble-shoot one of the most important aspects of the gloves, the speed at which the signs are translated.

via Moji Sensei Delano / Twitter

"People speak at different speeds and it's the same with people who sign: some are really fast, others are slow, so we integrated that into the mobile application so that it's comfortable for anyone to use it," he said.

RELATED: Scientists finally know what screen time does to your toddler's brain

According to Allela, the gloves are 93% effective at converting the signs into speech. Users can also adjust the pitch and gender of the vocalization so it sounds more like them.

They can also be stitched into kid-friendly designs such as princess or Spider-Man gloves. "It fights the stigma associated with being deaf and having a speech impediment. If the gloves look cool, every kid will want to know why you have them on," he says.

Allela's goal is to have two pairs of his gloves at every special-needs school in Kenya and to eventually help the 34 million children with hearing loss worldwide.

While this incredible invention may one day help the millions of people with hearing loss across the globe, it all started with simply trying to improve the life of a family member.

"I was trying to envision how my niece's life would be if she had the same opportunities as everyone else in education, employment, all aspects of life," says Allela.

Innovators
via David Leavitt / Twitter

Anyone who has ever worked in retail knows that the worst thing about the job, right after the pay, are the unreasonable cheapskates who "want to talk to your manager" to get some money off an item.

They think that throwing a tantrum will save them a few bucks and don't care if they completely embarrass themselves in the process. Sometimes that involves belittling the poor employee who's just trying to get through their day with an ounce of dignity.

Twitter is rallying around a gal named Tori who works at a Target in Massachusetts after she was tweet-shamed by irate chapekate, journalist, and Twitter troll, David Leavitt.

Keep Reading
Business

Childbirth is the number one reason American women visit the hospital, and it ain't cheap. In fact, it's getting more and more expensive. A new study published in Health Affairs found that the cost of having a baby with employer-sponsored health insurance increased by almost 50% in the past seven years.

The study evaluated "trends in cost-sharing for maternity care for women with employer-based health insurance plans, before and after the Affordable Care Act," which was signed into law in 2010. The study looked at over 657,061 women enrolled in large employer-sponsored health insurance plans who delivered babies between 2008 and 2015, as these plans tend to cover more than plans purchased by small businesses or individuals.

Keep Reading
Health

A meteorite crashed into Earth nearly 800,000 years ago. The meteor was 1.2 miles wide, and the impact was so big, it covered 10% of the planet with debris. However, scientists haven't been able to find the impact site for over a century. That is, until now. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal believes the crash site has been located.

Tektites, which are essentially rocks that have been liquefied from the heat of the impact and then cooled to form glass, help scientists spot the original impact site of a meteor. Upon impact, melted material is thrown into the atmosphere, then falls back to the ground. Even if the original crater has disappeared due to erosion or is hidden by a shift in tectonic plates, tektites give the spot away. Tektites between 750,000 to 35.5 million years old have been found in every continent except Antarctica.

Keep Reading