Vivoca tester Jonathan Toogood demonstrates the technology
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Electronic voice aid interprets for people with impaired speech

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have developed a prototype electronic aid for those with impaired speech.

Called Vivoca, the device is intended to help people who have difficulty controlling and co-ordinating the muscles used in speech to communicate more clearly.

The machine produces a range of phrases and words which users can select using a colour-coded menu. Users navigate through the menu by saying the colours - for example: "red, blue..." - into a head-mounted microphone.

The machine is designed to recognise an individual's commands, even in noisy environments.

The researchers, from the Centre for Assistive Technology and Connected Healthcare at Sheffield, believe the device may prove a better option for some people than existing communication tools.

In this video, we see tester Jonathan Toogood and the researchers showing how the device works.

In a statement, UK charity Communication Matters, which works to help those with little or no clear speech, said: "The Vivoca gives people with dysarthria - a motor speech disorder - who may find it difficult to make themselves understood, the ability to use their own voice as an input method.

"The voice recognition software learns to recognise the speech and can then interpret it from banks of options. This could reduce the anxiety of not being understood and give the person more independence."

Video journalist: Neil Bowdler

  • 11 Dec 2013