VocaTempo funded by SBRI Healthcare
SBRI is a funding programme backed by the NHS. They provide financial and business support to businesses and organisations to generate innovative technological solutions to problems which people face in healthcare. VocaTempo is a collaboration between Therapy Box, University of Sheffield and Barnsley Hospital; in which Therapy Box is the lead technical partner. VocaTempo is in its second phase of development after a very well received proof of concept.
The University of Sheffield’s Catch team developed speech recognition software for people with dysarthria. Therapy Box, in consultation with the team from the University of Sheffield, and a team from Barnsley hospital, applied to SBRI healthcare with an idea to create a voice activated AAC device. Rather than relying on a slow, focus pulling input method such as keyboard typing or switch access, a user could control the app with voice commands. The app would interpret these commands, and generate a clear message using synthetic speech. This would allow a user with dysarthric speech to be better understood.
Therapy Box worked with the project partners to establish the key features and built a proof of concept app for trial with real users. All major functionality was built into the test version, and the app was designed for ease of use for the therapists who would be setting it up. Early trials with young people with moderate to severe dysarthria have yielded very positive results. After just one session with VocaTempo 80% of users were able to generate a message faster using speech commands with VocaTempo than they were with their everyday communication method. Therapy Box is planning to redevelop the app to make it even faster to use, and to incorporate the other feedback provided to us by end users. One participant said, “That is faster than I’d ever imagined… it’s so amazing, because I’m speaking."
This project will address these problems by producing VocaTempo, a new, app-based voice-input communication aid, which will recognise words spoken by a child with severely impaired speech and speak out a clear version of the message, making the aid easier, faster and more natural to use than current communication aids. Click here to read more.
Meet the Team
SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) Healthcare is an NHS England funded programme that provides funding and support to innovative companies to solve healthcare problems. The SBRI Healthcare team works closely with clinicians and frontline NHS staff to identify key challenges from within the service, focussing on specific areas recognised as priority by NHS England and the 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSN). The programme aims to improve patient care, increase efficiency in the NHS, and support the UK economy by helping smaller companies grow.
The SBRI Healthcare programme is based on taking a two-phased development approach. Projects start with an initial feasibility study (Phase 1) and can then move on to detailed product development (Phase 2). Phase 1 contracts for feasibility testing are valued at up to £100,000 and last for six months. Phase 2 contracts for prototype development are worth up to £1 million and can extend over two years. Each contract is 100% funded by SBRI Healthcare and while the public sector has the right to license the resultant technology in certain circumstances, its intellectual property remains with the company.
The programme’s network of innovative companies extends throughout the UK. Since launching in 2009, £75 million has been awarded to over 150 companies developing solutions for major NHS challenges such as cancer detection, dementia care, mental health in young people and self-management of long-term conditions. SBRI Healthcare supported companies are already making an impact.