A Virtual Speech Therapist with Endless Patience

August 9, 2013
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Our language and ability to communicate is something most of us take for granted.  Communications is the basis for sharing and the patient-doctor relationship – but what do you do when the patient has asphasia, common in patients with dementia and Parkinsons?

eHealthAphasia is a language disorder which ranges from having difficulty remembering words to losing the ability to speak, read, or write.

Our language and ability to communicate is something most of us take for granted.  Communications is the basis for sharing and the patient-doctor relationship – but what do you do when the patient has asphasia, common in patients with dementia and Parkinsons?

eHealthAphasia is a language disorder which ranges from having difficulty remembering words to losing the ability to speak, read, or write.

Acute aphasia disorders usually develop quickly as a result of head injury or stroke, and progressive forms of aphasia develop slowly from a brain tumor, infection, or dementia. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphasia)

Researchers at Temple University in Philadelphia are working to develop virtual speech therapist in a first application of a computerized travel agent that is patient and doesn’t care how long you take or how slowly you speak.

Ultimately, the technology could serve as a key tool in helping people overcome aphasia.  Like physical therapy, speech therapy and in particular treatment of asphasia requires continuous practice – and a human speech therapist is expensive and not always accessible.

The promise of a virtual speech therapist is enormous – being able to challenge patients to spontaneously generate speech and put patients in a natural-feeling situation, that will help patients speak the correct words in the correct order.

Temple researchers want to build the virtual speech therapist vocabulary so that it can recognize all possible pronunciations of various words and respond with appropriate dialogue, and ultimately correct users who misspeak.

The mouth movements of therapists also are helpful to patients, so the virtual speech therapist will need to get these movements right.

Temple researchers also want to examine whether patients respond differently to virtual and human therapists, and they are experimenting with the avatar’s gender, ethnicity, and voice texture.

(See the full article here)

(Virtual speech therapy / shutterstock)