A South African has designed “smart gloves” that can translate sign language into speech, and speech into animated sign language.
The invention could make it easier for deaf people to communicate more effectively.
The gloves are the work of Lucky Netshidzati, a 26-year-old entrepreneur who hails from Limpopo. Both of Netshidzati’s parents are hearing-impaired.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Netshidzati explained how he was raised by his grandmother in order to develop speech properly.
Being unable to communicate with his parents then inspired him to start working on the devices in 2015.
The fingers of the glove employ context sensors to determine to what extent a finger is bent, and a gyroscope is used to detect the orientation of the hands.
In 2017 the glove was patented and has received attention from both local and international parties.
Netshidzati was rewarded for his invention with the top prize at a SITA hackathon in Durban last week, and it was stated that an investment of R15 million would be required to make the glove commercially-viable.
“It’s been five years of development and research but we need investors to do all the fine-tuning and make it a reality. All our potential clients indicated that they will buy the product as soon as it is ready for the market,” he told The Sunday Times.
SMS for the deaf
In May 2018, Vodacom announced the launch of South Africa’s first SMS emergency service for deaf, hearing, and speech-impaired customers.
The service addresses a need that exists in the market, said Vodacom.
Previously, deaf and hearing-impaired persons were unable to contact an emergency service centre as it could only be accessed via voice calls.
The SMS emergency service now provides customers with the option to request emergency services by sending an SMS to 082 112.