Newspaper clipping – The Mercury – 2 July 2008

KZN academic has the write stuff

A KwaZulu-Natal academic is on the verge of releasing a computerized handwriting recognition invention to the world.

University of KwaZulu-Natal professor Malome Khomo has been working on his invention since 2003 and hopes to release its first phase, a foundation education aid, by the end of 2008.

The prototype is made up of a device linked to an electronic “pen”. The device scans the movement of the pen and narrates the “written” letter off an attached speaker. The device enables the pupil to see the letter (on a cue card), he learns the movements to write the letter (by “writing” over the cue card) and he hears what the letter sounds like. A small monitor is also attached to the main device for a teacher to see what the child is writing.

Khomo described the prototype as the “electronic version of the traditional slate board” with the aim of helping children learn to write in a “multi-sensory” environment while simultaneously learning to work with computers. The prototype will also enable pupils to learn shapes, numbers and positions.

He is in the process of securing a European patent for his invention. He has already secured American and South African patents.
“This product can also be cross-cultural and multi-vernacular. For example, children could also learn the same things in Zulu,” he said.

Khomo, the director of the Centre of Entrepreneurship at UKZN, has been in information technology for 20 years. “That is why I saw a market for a keyboard replacement device in the industry. I started with the simplest version through the foundation phase aid. I wanted to find a pathway into the market very quickly and now I am very close. I’m also now looking for investors to help launch the product,” he said.

Khomo is working closely with Injecti-Vac in Pinetown, the fabricators of the housing for his invention.

He said he would approach the education department once the device was completed.