IA client InvoTek of Alma has received a $162,000 SBIR grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund development of its Real Talk, a device that helps people with hard-to-understand speech communicate more effectively.
InvoTek (also a client of the Arkansas Science & Technology Authority) is an R&D firm that creates products — and helps put them in the right places — that help people with physical handicaps access computers and other forms of technology. InvoTek truly, truly, truly represents a bona fide “feel good” story. Arkansas Business has written about it before (and it’s probably time to revisit Tom Jakobs and his fine crew).
Anyway, here’s the latest press release about InvoTek’s latest grant:
INVOTEK RECEIVES $162,000 NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH AWARD
Grant Will Fund Development of Real Talk – A Breakthrough Device that Helps People with Disabilities Communicate More Effectively
Alma, Ark. – May 7, 2013 – InvoTek, Inc., a research and development company in Alma, Arkansas, recently received a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant will fund the development of a prototype device that enables people with difficult to understand speech to use their natural speech to communicate effectively, even in noisy rooms. This new research builds on the custom speech recognition software behind InvoTek’s da Vinci Award winning product, SSR. Real Talk is a collaboration of InvoTek, speech scientists in Oregon, and clinical researchers at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska.
“Speaking is essential to how we convey our personality to others,” said Tom Jakobs, InvoTek’s president. “When someone must use a machine to talk for them because of disability, it limits their opportunity to express themselves and interact on a personal level. Real Talk will augment natural, dysarthric speech with text to help listeners understand while simultaneously valuing the speaker’s natural voice.”
Approximately 500,000 people in the United States have dysarthria, a condition that makes it impossible to speak clearly, hindering spoken communication. Current assistive communication devices attempt to replace natural speech with computer-generated speech, but most people find these devices lacking when it comes to face-to-face conversations. The speech recognition software within Real Talk enables these people to use their natural speech, and supports the listener with a text screen so that they can read the words that they are cannot understand. This unique speech recognition system is the core of Real Talk, and can even be used in noisy environments.
Founded in 1988, InvoTek specializes in applying technology to the needs of people with severe disabilities. InvoTek is a founding sponsor of Be Extraordinary, a non-profit organization that helps people with severe disabilities who want to accomplish a life goal. The goal can be wide ranging — improved participation in their health care, access to books, better communication with family or friends, the ability to advocate on their own behalf, or accomplish an educational or vocational goal. Be Extraordinary uses tax-deductible contributions from generous donors to fund these projects.