The Israeli-developed TalkITT software helps a boy with a speech impairment communicate “I love you.” Photo: VoiceITT.
JNS.org — A little boy with autism says “I love you”–and you understand it. Your grandfather is able to say “congratulations” when you graduate–despite the recent stroke he suffered that impaired his speech. That future is almost a reality thanks to new Israeli-developed technology that can extract spoken words from the sounds of people with speech disabilities.
Danny Weissberg in 2012 co-founded VoiceITT, maker of the TalkITT software, shortly after his grandmother had a stroke. He describes her as “the center of our family” and says it was “painful” to know she wanted to talk, but was being prevented by her stroke from communicating.
Weissberg, who obtained degrees in civil engineering and computer science and had been working in the hi-tech industry for more than 15 years, began consulting with speech therapists and other related experts. Quickly, he realized the need for TalkITT–given that as many as 1.5 percent of the world’s population has a speech disability or impairment–and decided that with enough innovation, a solution could be created.
“The solutions that exist today, none of them actually uses personal or normal speech,” Weissberg, who serves as CEO of Ramat Gan-based VoiceITT in Israel’s Tel Aviv District, tells JNS.org. “They all bypass speech. Some even monitor head and eye movements. But none of them allows people to communicate in the most natural way: their voice.”
The TalkITT software works by creating a dictionary of sounds and associating them with meaning or words. The user makes a sound and associates it with a word on the software. The app recalls the translation for future conversations. Weissberg equates the process to how a mother of a child with a speech disability will learn to understand her child, by associating his or her sounds with meaning, and knowing what he or she wants when no one else does.
“Like the mother that makes that association, so too will the software. Once the software learns, then he is now not limited to talking only with his mother. He can speak to friends at school. Because the software can translate what he says for anyone,” says Weissberg.
Due to its functionality, the software would work for people who speak any language–English, Hebrew, or even the speech pattern of an autistic child who has invented his own language (as long as it is consistent). The software app can currently run on tablets and smartphones.
Matthew Arnheiter–vice president of innovations, research, and development for Netsmart, the country’s longest-standing healthcare information technology company–says mobile healthcare technologies like TalkITT have burst onto the scene since the iPhone came out in 2007. Before then, many new technologies catered to niche markets, were expensive, or were purpose-built technologies that were difficult to purchase and equally as challenging to implement.
“The phone makes it so we can do things easily and distribute them to the population rather quickly,” says Arnheiter, noting that today is “a better time than yesterday” for struggling with …read more
Source:: The Algemeiner