Israeli company Voiceitt, a developer of speech recognition technology for atypical speech, is officially launching its app for people with speech and motor impairments (following brain injuries, strokes, mental disabilities, degenerative diseases, and other potential speech impairments) to communicate with their own voice.
The app is first being made available in the App Store for iPhone and iPad and will be free to indiviuals, institutions, nursing facilities and organizations for a limited period, the company announced on Tuesday.
Founded in 2012, Voiceitt uses proprietary machine learning and automatic speech recognition (ASR) technologies to identify and adapt to individuals’ unique impaired speech patterns so they can communicate and control smart devices using their own voice commands. The company’s state-of-the-art speech analysis technology can also recognize speech patterns including utterances, cadence of speech, breathing pauses and non-verbal sounds, in any language.
Voiceitt users begin with a simple training phase, repeating a set of words and phrases several times so the app can build an artificial intelligence-powered speech model that allows the individual to communicate specific commands. Users build a personalized dictionary and train the app to recognize their unique pronunciation. The app then recognizes a user’s trained phrases in real-time and translates output into typical speech – enabling users to convey complex sentences that help them better navigate their daily lives, the company explains.
“Everyone deserves to be able to express themselves and to be understood,” says Danny Weissberg, Voiceitt CEO and co-founder, in a company statement on Tuesday. “With this launch, countless people with non-standard speech will be able to use their own voice to easily communicate with caregivers, loved ones and even their smart home devices.”
The launch of the app comes at a pivotal time for many with atypical speech, the company indicates. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation and social distancing left many individuals with speech and motor impairments eseparated from loved ones or cut off from care facilities and other support often crucial to their wellbeing.
By initially offering its app at no cost, Voiceitt says it aims to mitigate some of the hardships created by the pandemic and improve the quality of life for as many people affected as possible.
“I’m so proud to make our technology available to this wonderful community. Voice recognition technology is finally becoming accessible to everyone,” Weissberg added.
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Voiceitt’s app has been integrated with Amazon’s Alexa since last year to increase independence and quality of life for people in the community. As a growing portion of the world’s population has access to smart home devices that enable them to turn on the lights, put on some music, and set the oven, those who live with speech that may be hard to understand often cannot use their own voices to utilize such widespread speech-powered technologies, the company says. The app will allow them to decrease reliance on others and opens up possibilities for more independent living.
The partnership with Alexa followed a successful pilot with Inglis House, a long-term care wheelchair community for people with physical disabilities based in Philadelphia. In the pilot, Voiceitt worked closely with Inglis’ Assistive Technology Team to help participants with cerebral palsy and atypical speech use Voiceitt and Alexa to perform daily tasks, such as controlling channels on their TVs or playing music.
“In collaboration with Voiceitt, we have been able to bring Alexa to even more customers,” said Peter Korn, Director of Accessibility at Amazon Lab126. “We strive to make all Amazon products and services as delightful and easy to use as possible for everyone. Voiceitt’s integration with Alexa helps us do just that, enabling customers with speech impairments to enjoy all that Alexa has to offer and help them live more independently.”
Voiceitt is an Amazon Alexa Fund portfolio company and took part in the Alexa Accelerator, powered by Techstars, in Seattle in 2018. Additional investors include the Technion, AARP, Microsoft’s M12, Viking Maccabee Ventures, and Quake Capital.
Voiceitt’s network of international partners also includes healthcare providers, speech and occupational therapists, researchers, and disability organizations in the US, Israel, and throughout Europe, who participated in Voiceitt’s testing programs to help their clients communicate more easily with their families, caregivers and health professionals.
Earlier this year, Voiceitt won a “Best of Innovation” award in the accessibility category at the annual CES (International Consumer Electronics Show) 2021 conference, which took place virtually this year.
“The degree of independence our app helps give to members of our user community has inspired us to develop our technology even further and make it available to even more people,” said Weissberg. “Our goal is to give voice to everyone.”
Voiceitt is based in Tel Aviv and has offices in the US. The company was founded by Weissberg and Stas Tiomkim as well as Sara Smolley, who joined the company a few years later as Voiceitt’s Co-founder and Head of Partnerships and Alliances.