KinTrans breaks barriers for the deaf

The KinTrans device
The KinTrans device | KinTrans
A very young Mohamed Elwazer stood at a street corner in Egypt and watched a deaf little boy attempt to communicate with a police officer. His hands flew in front of him as he tried, and failed to convey a message that no one could understand. The officer, fed up with his inability to understand the boy simply turned around and walked away.

“I thought to myself, what if this was a critical situation?” he said. “What if something was being stolen from him and he was trying to tell the officer? What if he was in a hospital and suffering from a heart attack? Anything like this that means he has to connect with the society around him.”

Years later, after Elwazer had graduated from the Faculty of Engineering at Ain Shams University in Cairo, he watched a demonstration of the Xbox Kinect at the popular City Stars mall, and suddenly it clicked. The Kinect translated movements into video game controls without using a joystick, it was just like sign language. He remembered the little boy he had seen frustrated years ago, and decided to create a device that would help break down barriers for deaf people around the world.

He moved with his team to Dubai, where there are more laws for disability access than Egypt, and a stronger more stable investment community. They created KinTrans, a device that is designed for airports, hospitals, hotels and malls. Deaf customers can then simply stand in front of the device and it will translate sign language in real time. This convenience, says Elwazer, is a game changer.

“We decided to build a platform that translates in real time, without having to put anything on his hand or head,” he said. “He just walks in, stands in front of the device, does the signs and the machine translates what he is saying.”

For many deaf travelers, patients and visitors their biggest issue with current hardware is that it creates a barrier between them and the society around them. From hearing aids that are instantly recognizable to speaking gloves that translate their sign language, the devices all made them feel different.

“KinTrans will truly change the way deaf people interact in the airports, because you build a real convenient communication channel that breaks the barriers of sign language,” said Elwazer.

For now Elwazer’s biggest challenge is creating a completely new market that investors are comfortable entering. To overcome this, and build traction, they have decided to start by crowdfunding the project. Though they are looking for $750,000 in investments to commercialize KinTrans, he hopes that this strategy will show just how important KinTrans is, and how much of an impact it can have around the world.