University of Sheffield Catch team developed speech recognition software which recognises the voices of speakers with dysarthria. The team are working with Therapy Box and Barnsley Hospital to turn this unique and innovative piece of intellectual property into a commercial, accessible and inclusive product for people with speech disabilities.
Integrating software created by University of Sheffield, Therapy Box’s VocaTempo app can be trained to recognise words spoken by a speaker with dysarthria. Once the app has been trained, a user can create voice activated commands. This allows users to speak into VocaTempo and have the app generate a message using synthetic speech. This enables speakers with dysarthria to be clearly understood without having to rely on a slow and distracting input method such as typing or switch access.
With more than 5 years’ experience developing apps, Therapy Box was able to provide insights beyond the original scope of the VocaTempo product. Therapy Box was able to improve upon the original user experience, making navigation simpler and setup faster. Therapy Box was also able to utilise lessons learned from historical projects to come up with a development plan which allowed for fast development of a proof of concept version, before creating bonus features for the app prior to its first trial with end-users.
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 than with their everyday communication method. A second version aims to make the app 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."