TechInAfrica – For Lucky Netshidzati, being born from parents with hearing loss had given him the motivation to develop ‘smart gloves’. Hailing from Limpopo, the 26-year-old inventor designs smart gloves that translate sign language to speech and speech to animated sign language.
Netshidzati explained his background in a Sunday Times interview. He was raised by his grandmother to develop proper speech. Netshidzati also cites his struggle to communicate with his parents as his biggest influence to start on working for the smart gloves in 2015.
The technology allows easier communication for people who have trouble with their hearing. It utilizes context sensors in the fingers area to decide the extent of a finger bent and a gyroscope that detects the hands’ orientation. The glove received a patent in 2017, earning the local and international’s interests. For his invention, Netshidzati has been awarded the top prize at a SITA hackathon two weeks ago, and plans for commercial use of the gloves will require an R15 million budget.
As Netshidzati tells The Sunday Times, although the technology has gone through development for five years, he admits that investors will undoubtedly help accelerate the timeline. “All our potential clients indicated that they will buy the product as soon as it is ready for the market,” he adds.
“We need investors to do all the fine-tuning and make it a reality.”
But Netshidzati isn’t alone in this field. Companies like Vodacom also took part in supporting their deaf, hearing, and speech-impaired customers. In May 2018, it announced the launch of SA’s first SMS emergency service for the said group. With the service, customers can opt to request emergency services by sending a text to 082 112, as opposed to the past where they could only make voice calls.