Interview by Michelle Hua @MadeWithGlove
Hadeel Ayoub is a Saudi designer who spent 8 years teaching digital design courses to girls in higher education in Saudi Arabia. She then moved to the UK to pursue postgraduate studies. She obtained a Masters of Arts from Goldsmiths, University of London in Computational Arts where she stayed on to do her PhD in Arts & Computational Technology. Hadeel's research is focused on developing assistive technology pieces to disrupt the healthcare innovation industry. Her studies engage speech disabled participants and children with non-verbal autism. Her goal is to design multiple wearable technology assistive tools to help sign language users with their daily communication.
Hadeel's BrightSign Glove innovation gained global awards in Innovation and Artificial Intelligence. Her slogan is 'One day I hope to give a voice to those who can't speak'.
What is the idea behind your product and how did you come up with it?
BrightSign is a data glove wired with sensors to translate sign language hand gestures to text and speech. BrightSign has all hardware embedded in the design of the glove and does not require any smart devices for output. There is a small screen to display the words and a small speaker to speak out the words.
I came up with this idea while I was working on an air draw software and I utilised the same technology to design BrightSign with a social contribution in mind.
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
I started in 2014. I work alone but I did collaborate with some professionals in different relevant fields at certain stages of this project, a smart textiles professor, a web developer and a machine learning programmer to enhance the features of the glove.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
About 3 years between research, prototyping, design and testing.
What was your biggest obstacle?
Having to learn how to program and wire each piece of hardware and trying to integrate it in my circuit.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in wearable tech?
I consider myself disrupting the healthcare innovation field and I’m up against huge competition and big names in this industry. I would say the biggest challenge at this point is funding in order to be able to go into production.
What are your biggest achievements so far?
The biggest achievement would be allowing each user to upload his/her own version of sign language and train the glove according to their needs using machine learning.
What do you think will be the key trends in the wearable tech and fashion tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
I see it as an extension of our senses and that it will be an integral part of our lives just like mobile technology is now.
Is the #WomenInTech initiative important to you and if yes, why?
Of course, because often I find myself the only woman in some tech events, seminars, talks etc. I strongly feel that woman are capable of adding their mark in this field and our contribution will enrich and influence the tech trends and movements.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Don’t get intimidated by being outnumbered and when you work detach yourself from your surroundings and the social norms.