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."
At the beginning of 2018 VocaTempo underwent a full clinical evaluation and the results and feedback was very impressive, one user described it as “Amazing!”. Many users who participated in the trial have told us that said the would continue to use VocaTempo to share pre-stored messages and stories. Our users have found that it is great when communicating with new people and in situations where speech is not likely to be understood, perhaps because it is noisy.