Engineering Includes Me: Roy Allela

left: Roy Allela, right graphic of hands

Engineering Includes Me: Roy Allela

Roy Allela is a Kenyan Software Engineer and data science tutor at Oxford University who invented the Sign-IO glove and supporting technology that translates sign language to speech for the deaf.

Roy was nominated by the Bristol Electrical & Electronic Engineering Student Society.


The Engineering Includes Me Wall

Staff and students were invited to
nominate inspirational people in STEM
from marginalised or underrepresented
backgrounds. We commissioned eight
artworks for our shared spaces to
showcase and celebrate role models
from the faculty and beyond.

A young technology enthusiast from Kenya, Roy Allela recognised the problem that people who use sign language exclusively have communicating with non-sign language speaking people. Allela was particularly inspired by wanting to communicate with his niece, who is a deaf person. This paved the way to one of his most popular inventions: the Sign-IO – a smart glove that converts sign language movements into audio speech. A real testament to using technology to bring people together.

The gloves work when paired with a mobile phone application, using flex sensors to quantify the bend of the fingers and the process of the word being signed. In 2019 the Sign IO glove was a finalist in the Royal Academy of Engineering, Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.