Silence in the backdrop of chit-chats, gabfests, whispers and laughter! And many of us have to maintain it by ‘fate’ and not by ‘choice’. What if you could change the fate of countless mute souls? What if you had something that gave every individual a chance to express, evince and gabble?
Voiceitt is developing ‘TalkItt’—a step forward to better social inclusion for people with speech impairments due to motor, speech, and language disorders. It allows users to express themselves freely and be understood with clarity and ease. This innovative application is based on personalized speech recognition technology, which recognizes the user’s speech and translates it into understandable language; displayed and vocalized by the user’s device.
Meet the brains behind Voiceitt
It was Danny Weissberg (presently the CEO of Voiceitt) and Stas Tiomkin (CTO) who founded Voiceitt. Weissberg earned his B.Sc. with honors in Civil Engineering from the Technion and his B.A. in Computer Science with Honors from the Open University. He has over 15 years of extensive experience in the Hi-Tech industry, entrepreneurship, business development and management, innovation, research and development in cutting-edge technologies of complex software solutions.
Stas Tiomkin on the other hand is an expert in Speech Technology & Signal Processing, with academic and industrial experience in research and development in various Speech Technology fields. He is in charge of all algorithms, voice and signal processing research that the developers implement. In addition to the founders, the team stands out to be a vibrant mix of people from different backgrounds.
The Story of Voiceitt!
When Weissberg’s grandmother had a stroke few years ago, she wanted to communicate and the family wanted to understand, but her speech was unclear. She indeed lost a huge ability in her last years and this prompted Weissberg and others to think out-of-the-box. The frustration that stems from the lack of ability to communicate touches so many of us; eventually making us emotionally concerted to the vision of enabling people with speech disabilities to speak freely and be understood by anyone.
This vision was reinforced by massive interest and excitement from the professional community (speech therapist, occupational therapist and associations) in Israel, Europe and the US. The enthusiasm and discussions with the professional community unlocked their imagination to creating voice based solution for broader population with disabilities. To sum-up, their vision—the VoiceItt technology will reduce the gap for people with disabilities and improve their life.
Hurdles Faced being a Startup
We all want to express ourselves and ‘speech’ has been fundamental to humankind for doing so! But unfortunately, all of us do not have the same ability when it comes to speaking. There are many among us who suffer from speech disorder and speaking disabilities. It is important to understand that such limitations can be triggered by various internal and external factors. Conditions such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Cerebral Palsy, Stroke, Brain Damage, Autism, Parkinson’s Disease and others can drive different types of speech disabilities.
To bridge the gap, technological challenges were among the main hurdles, along with a tight schedule to get things up and running. They’ve got four patents pending and a demo with running code to prove their metal.
Voiceitt—addressing the problem!
Speech is the most basic and essential means for us to communicate with each other.However for millions of people (1.5% of the Western world’s population), who live with speech disabilities, speaking and being understood is not an option.This is very hard and frustrating for them, and affects much larger circles in society: family, caregiver, friends and the society as a whole, because they want to be socially included in schools and work places and enjoy social activities.
There are currently a variety of solutions (eye tracking, head tracking, and communication boards). However, these solutions are often expensive, awkward, unnatural to use, and they degrade natural speech. Talkitt as of now is the only voice based solution that encourages the user to speak and ultimately improve his/her communication abilities.
Competitors to Voiceitt and Why?
There are no direct competitors to Talkitt as current solutions do not use the user’s voice. While the AAC field is specific, with an approximate U.S. market of 3 million users, the field is still lucrative for companies that find their niche. Tobii Technology, a top eye-gaze company that produces various AAC devices, is worth over $200 million. The iOS AAC application, Proloquo2go from Assistiveware, grossed nearly $17 million since its launch just a few years ago. Other top companies in AAC devices include PRC and Saltillo (who are partners as part of a consortium, and Natural Point which creates head tracking technology. These companies are not direct competitors to TalkItt, as the technology is completely innovative in the field, with no AAC technology currently on the market that utilizes the user’s voice to aid in their communication. The current methods for AAC access are touch, eye and head tracking, which can be difficult and tiring methods for the many people who have motor disabilities accompanying their speech impairment.
Expansion Plans & Target Audience
Their initial focus is the disabled market. However, they see Voiceitt as a disruptive solution to the mass market as well. They are building an increasing audio recording database. An important strength is the utilization of the database of recordings, for monitoring the user state and research to better understanding of those with disabilities. The database can be used to track the progression of a patient, monitor their status, how to react to specific treatments, and identify common features. Also, in long term, their technology can change the way the mass market uses speech-to-text, helping people with heavy accents, incorporating emotional recognition, and controlling home appliances, doors, wheelchairs, games, browsers, etc.
Approximately 1.5% of the Western world’s population live with a speech disabilities caused by a variety of medical conditions. They include, but are not limited to, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, stroke, brain trauma, Autism, and Parkinson’s disease. People with such conditions are often able to orally communicate solely with their long term caregivers, who have developed the ability to understand their indistinct speech, but not with extended family, friends and society as a whole. Since Talkitt is language independent, their target market is global, although they are focusing on the US initially.
Plans to Monetize Talkitt
Once the pilot test is concluded, Talkitt will be sold directly to end users ($20/month subscription fee) through web based app stores (iTunes, Google Play, Microsoft Windows Store) as well as our website and through discounted perks on our pre-order site. In 2016, after a significant user base has been built and pilot study results published, VoiceItt will apply for reimbursement through governmental insurance programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.
Their valuable database of recordings is continually increasing as they collect voice recording of people with speech disabilities through cooperation with several organizations and associations. Currently no such database exists, and they plan to market this valuable tool to bio-medical, pharmaceutical and clinical research organizations. It can be used for research purposes for analysis of various cases such as sensitivity to medications and their effect on the patients, improvement or degradation rate, etc.
Check it out here: Talkitt.com