Jan 2020

Smart glove bridges communication gap

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

A new technologically advanced glove will help bridge the communication gap between people living with hearing impairments and those with full speech and hearing.

The CommuniCare Glove Sensor translates sign language into audio speech. Lucky Netshidzati, in the yellow jersey, shows of how his sign-to-speech glove functions.

The developer of the glove and CEO of Rudzambilu Holdings, Lucky Netshidzati (26), from Nzhelele in Limpopo, said the glove helps people living with hearing impairments by translating sign into audio and audio speech into an animated sign language. These translations can be viewed on a cellphone app.

The glove is compatible with all 11 official languages of South Africa. “We want a gogo in Limpopo who does not understand English to be able to use it,” Netshidzati  said.

The glove will allow deaf people to engage with doctors, bank officials, police or other people in a manner that guarantees their privacy as there will be no need for a third party translator, he explained.

“Essentially, it’s about privacy and independence for the deaf community,” he said.

“The glove will also help curb the high student dropout rate as students and teachers will be able to communicate better. Currently in South Africa, especially in rural areas, we have a lot of deaf people who don’t study because it’s difficult to communicate with teachers,” said Netshidzati.

The glove was inspired by Netshidzati’s own struggles as the child of deaf parents. He explained that as a child, he had to live with his grandmother as he was unable to communicate with his parents.

"The device has been tried by my parents who are elated because they finally can communicate easily with me," said Netshidzati.

Research into the glove started in 2015 and the first functional glove was produced in 2018.

Working with the Tshwane Municipality’s Disability Unit, the invention was tested by members of the deaf society who Netshidzati said welcomed the glove with excitement.

The glove has also helped Rudzambilu Holdings, which was established to develop telecom systems for persons with disabilities, create employment for 10 young people.

Netshidzati hopes that his invention will act as a launch pad for future innovations to help people living with disabilities.

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