Glovatrix, an Indian Startup, Building AI Gloves to Help Speech Impaired Speak again


Since the global explosion of Generative Artificial Intelligence in 2022, the technology has become the talk of the town. It is not only large language model (LLM)-based AI, but all different branches of the technology that have seen rapid growth in both development and application. AI has also left the digital realm and entered the real world, helping people improve their lives. From language translation tools to early detection of diseases, it has impacted all areas of society.

Glovatrix, a Pune-based Indian startup, also aims to solve a similar problem for people who suffer from speech and hearing problems. According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.5 billion people in the world suffer from some level of hearing problem. Although the organization does not maintain such data for speech disorders, it is likely in the millions. In many cases, these people rely on either written communication or sign language to communicate. While the former can greatly slow down communication, the latter requires an interpreter near the listener to translate the sign language into spoken words.

This condition can often result in difficulty securing a job, especially a job that is customer-facing or requires a lot of communicating. But this is where companies like Glowatrix come in. An Indian startup is working on an AI-powered device called Fifth Sense that can convert gestures from sign language to speech in near real-time and help people suffering from verbal impairment to communicate effectively and without. Help. At Gadgets 360 we spoke to the startup's co-founders to learn more about the product and the technology behind it.

Glowatrix, an Indian AI startup

Glowatrix was founded in 2021 by co-founders Aishwarya Karnataka and Parikshit Sohoni, who both serve as joint CEOs of the company. Karnataki met a hearing-impaired child in 2009, who inspired her to learn sign language and their conversation planted the seed of making a difference for those who suffer the same fate. The seed into Fifth Sense blossomed when she met other co-founder Sohoni, a data scientist with extensive experience in predictive analytics who experienced these struggles within her own family and was immediately able to resonate with the cause. .

The two are working with an engineer to form a team of three at a shared office space in Baner, Pune. Explaining his vision, Karnataki said, “Our vision is to facilitate seamless communication between people of all abilities and to give every deaf and hard of hearing person the ability to express and listen in their natural language – sign language Is.”

Glovatrix The Fifth Sense Glovatrix

Fifth Sense, AI-powered gloves
Photo Credit: Glowatrix

Fifth Sense, AI-powered gloves for people with speech disabilities

From a form-factor perspective, the AI-powered device looks like a glove with a smartwatch placed on top of it. Sohoni tells us that the AI ​​gloves are made using lightweight fabric that can be worn for 6-8 hours without any discomfort. The gloves have an opening at the top where the fingers can protrude, allowing the user to use a smartphone or any other task that requires a better grip. The Fabric is equipped with a smartwatch and multiple sensors to capture any gesture. The cloth itself is detachable and can also be washed separately.

Talking about the hardware, Sohoni said that the company sources the components used in the device from different countries, and then manufactures it separately based on the company's in-house design. This is a standard model adopted by most of the wearable companies operating in India.

But it's the software where Glowatrix brings its innovation to the fore. This system has two parts that enable seamless two-way communication. The first is a device that is powered by AI, and the second is a companion app. “The AI ​​architecture was developed completely in-house because we had no references to look at,” Sohoni said. Interestingly, Glowatrix does not use generative AI and instead uses a mix of machine learning and a variety of analysis algorithms for its gesture-to-speech interface.

When a gesture is made, the companion app converts it to audio and plays it for the listener. It also acts as a receiver when a hearing-impaired person needs to listen to a speaker without sign language. The app listens to the sound and then turns it into text for the user to read. Interestingly, the app captures not only spoken words but also other sounds like the doorbell ringing. The company also claims that the device works in near real time, enabling fluent communication.

How Glowatrix is ​​solving privacy and connectivity challenges

The common problems that are seen with smart devices like these are connectivity and privacy. Most smart devices, especially those that use AI, perform calculations and processes on servers. This means that fast working internet is important for a lag-free experience. Similarly, smart devices need to collect a lot of user data to provide their functionality. Keeping this data on servers may also raise privacy concerns in the event of a breach.

Glowatrix has found a solution to both problems. The entire receiver portion of the app is done on the device, meaning any user-side audio collected to convert to text never leaves the device. This part is also lag-free as it does not require active internet connectivity. On the gesture-to-speech side, Sohoni said that some key words and individual characters will also be added to the app itself to eliminate connectivity issues. However, since AI models require powerful computational processing, the rest of the work will happen on the cloud which will require a stable internet connection. Notably, the company is also built cloud natively and should help optimize server-device connectivity for Indian users.

What is worth noting here is that while the AI ​​has been trained in Indian Sign Language and converts text in Hindi and Marathi, a text translation tool within the app can generate audio in English and most Indian regional languages. would be able.

Finding product-market fit

Fifth Sense is currently a prototype, and Sohoni revealed that the company will begin its first pilot tests soon. The startup is also confident that it will be able to find product-market fit within the next six months.

Even though the product is not ready for market, Glowatrix has already seen the impact of its device. It has been claimed that a man unable to speak was able to get a job after using the Fifth Sense to communicate with his interviewer.

And how expensive can the product be? Sohoni said the aim of the AI ​​gloves is to keep the price point competitive so it can be accessible to the masses. Although he did not disclose any specific price, but said that its price could be as much as a mid-range smartphone. Additionally, to bring down the price point, Glowatrix is ​​also considering a subscription-based revenue model that can further reduce the price burden on the end consumer.

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