Revolutionary glove gives a voice to people isolated by speech impediments

A revolutionary glove pioneered by graduates from the University of Sheffield is helping to give a voice to people left isolated by severe speech impediments.

Talented inventors Vinoth Gurasamy, 25, Kalhana Colombage, 25, and Hossein Mohanna ,28, have produced a ground breaking, light-weight and low cost speech aid which is helping to transform the lives of people with
communication difficulties.

The glove works by converting simple finger movements into gestures which control speech through a Photo of William and glovesynthesised voice. The user simply wears the glove and moves their fingers in order to articulate more than 1,000 words or commands.

Vinoth, who graduated from the University of Sheffield with a Masters in Aerospace Engineering, said: "Our inspiration for the invention was an eight-year-old girl who we met during our course where we observed people with communication difficulties. She was able to do everything apart from speak and the only equipment she had was a huge keyboard which helped her say a limited amount of words. It was extremely big and she found it very difficult to carry around. Meeting her motivated us and made us determined to help others in a similar situation."

Over the past six months the team have been working closely with grandfather William Broad, 73, from Sheffield who suffered a stroke in 2010 leaving him unable to talk.

William's daughter, Keeley Bellamy from Sheffield, said: "The glove is absolutely remarkable and has made such a difference for both dad and for the family. Dad is such an intelligent and able person so it is unbelievably frustrating for him not to be able to communicate with his loved ones.”

The graduates initially constructed a prototype of the device for the University's annual Enterprising Ideas Business Planning Competition. After scooping first prize, Vinoth and Hossein launched Ecofriendly Technologies, and with the help of Kalhana, they developed the gadget further to increase the glove's word bank and week-long battery life.

Kalhana, who is currently studying at the University for a PhD in Electronic Engineering, explained: "The glove weighs approximately 100 grams, has a battery life which lasts one week and costs around £700. Although similar devices are available they are heavier and more expensive – a device with a specification of over 1,000 words or commands with a battery life of one day usually costs more than £2,000. These also have a very large screen and cannot be used in lots of everyday situations such as buying a bus ticket.

She added "Our glove blends into the users' clothes and unlike devices with a screen they never need to scroll though pages and pages to find the right word – with our device any word is a second away making it one of the fastest communication device in the world."

Margaret Freeman, from Human Communication Sciences at the University of Sheffield said: "William is a typical example of someone who may benefit from the glove. He has survived a massive stroke which has left him with very limited movement in his right side, visual problems and loss of control of his speech muscles. This means it's difficult for him to use most of the standard forms of assistive technology or communication aids. William is an intelligent man, who still has a lot to say, so the 'talking glove' could help him, by providing a way to get even a basic message out.”

She added, "It's a very clever idea. It looks deceptively simple, but has a huge amount of technology under the surface. I believe it is best suited to people with little control of their speech muscles, but good hand control and well-preserved language and intellect."

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