Have you ever wondered what it is like to not be able to communicate your thoughts and needs? Perhaps you know someone with Autism who has invented their own language or have had a loved one after a stroke or CP unable to utter understandable sentences. Maybe you have witnessed someone with a degenerative disease like Lou Gehrig’s or Parkinson’s struggle to order a pizza, buy a bus ticket, or simply ask for directions from a stranger?
Having trouble expressing yourself is an everyday reality for millions of people around the world (1.5% of the world’s population). Currently there is no solution on the market which enables a person with a speech impairment to speak and be understood using their own voice. This is the gap that Voiceitt is trying to fill. Voiceitt is developing TalkItt, an innovative speech technology which is able to recognize unintelligible language and translate it into understandable speech.
“This isn’t standard speech recognition. We are using pattern recognition which is personalized for the speaker. For example, a person with Cerebral Palsy might say ‘sho-ko-la’ when he really means to say ‘chocolate. The app will recognize that based on the user’s own personalized, pre-recorded dictionary.” says Danny Weissberg, the cofounder and CEO of Voiceitt.
Essentially, Talkitt is giving people with speech impairments their voice back. Talkitt’s slogan is “This is my voice.”
“To get started, the person speaks a word, and that person or the caregiver associates it with a word on the app in any language they choose. The app recalls this translation from the calibrated dictionary and the system is ready to use immediately.” Weissberg explains. The app will be on a monthly subscription basis ready downloaded to an Android device, with an iOS version planned for the future.
“Existing products for people with speech impairments rely on boards or pictures, or use eye tracking to help them select words they wish to say, “To my surprise no one has a solution like ours, which is much more simple and intuitive to use, mobile and encourages the person to speak” Weissberg notes.
Voiceitt just announced that it will be launching a seed round funding campaign using the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo effective August 4, 2014. The company is targeting to raise US$ 50,000 to launch its innovative application as it is in the development phase with a working demo. This campaign will enable Voiceittto release Talkitt in six months depending on how much they exceed their goal.
“Usually there is a parent, spouse or caregiver who understands what the person is saying. But out in the real world, that person is alone. For millions of people it is very frustrating to order a cup of coffee. We are trying to help them integrate into society using their own personal translator. Our vision is to have our technology be smarter than the person who has been by their side and understands every word they say. It’s wonderful and unbelievably rewarding to be able to change someone’s life like that.”
As for the future, Weissberg says the company’s innovative speech technology can change the way the mass market uses speech-to-text, helping people with heavy accents, the speech of small children, and incorporating emotional recognition, just to name a few.As wearable devices are the future, he can visualize the app one day inside a device like Google Glass and smart watches.
“There are so many possibilities to incorporate our model. We also plan to expand our technology into sophisticated gaming for the disabled as well as the mass market, allowing people to use their voice to operate a computer game or other application.” explains Weissberg who previously founded the Open University Entrepreneur Club and worked for 15 years as a team leader at Check Point and then RAD Vision, two major Israeli high-tech players.
Voiceitt was founded in 2012. The five person team has won three development grants from Israel’s Office of the Chief Scientist, will present their solution in TedMED this fall in Washington D.C. has won various competitions including the Special Recognition Award in the Deutsche Telekom Innovation Contest, and has partnered with over 20 European entities including hospitals, universities, NGO’s and technological companies.