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Accessible Voice-Activated Technologies in a Voice-First World

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NUVOIC (Accessible Voice-Activated Technologies in a Voice-First World)

Reporting period: 2020-05-01 to 2021-04-30

Speech impairments may range from mild to severe and refer to an impaired ability to produce speech sounds. People with speech and motor disabilities, as well as elderly with non-standard speech patterns, struggle daily to communicate with people around them. Advances in assistive technologies can help them and pave the way for a more inclusive society. The overall objective of the project is therefore to deliver to the market a novel core speech recognition technology designed to recognize impaired speech. Within this context, the Nuvoic consortium will commercialise two new products (Nuvoic Home and Nuvoic Shop) employing upgraded versions of the core Voiceitt speech technology.
• Nuvoic Home, a mobile application facilitating both human to human communication (translating unintelligible speech) and human to machine interaction (integrating the universally accessible speech technology in a voice-activated connected home context).
• Nuvoic Shop demonstrates Voiceitt’s adaptable speech technology in a specifically designed P&G e-commerce platform. This user-friendly voice activated e-commerce platform initially focusses on addressing the needs of elderly (60+).
With product launches slated for 2022 and 2023, the project will provide affected individuals an innovative technological means to communicate with the people around them, as well as access to the benefits of mainstream voice-driven devices and technologies.
Participants with non-standard speech correlated with a variety of underlying conditions and disorders have been recruited to participate in the Nuvoic data collection and testing activities. The proper procedures and principles of data privacy, ethical research, and informed consent have been followed. Recorded speech data has been collected from Nuvoic participants to support the accelerated development of the core Nuvoic speech technology software, resulting in a large, unique database of non-standard speech. Customer research was completed to evaluate how the Nuvoic voice technology integrated with Nuvoic Home and Nuvoic Shop products can improve elderly and disabled consumers’ lives. Technical exploration was completed to validate which hardware components to integrate with the optimised Nuvoic software, increases independence and quality of life for people with speech and motor disabilities. The first version of Nuvoic Home (the dual function mobile app with both in-person communication and smart home functionality) has been launched on the App Store for general availability to consumers. Initial specifications for Nuvoic Shop have been completed, with the development work, product design and SDK integration as planned 2022 before user testing. The ongoing customer engagement and feedback during each stage of Nuvoic’s development ensures that the final outcomes address the needs of the end users, and support the business case and successful adoption of the Nuvoic commercial product.
The goals of the Nuvoic project are to commercialise the optimised speech technology that recognises non-standard speech and to validate a new commercial product that helps people with disabilities communicate more effectively and enable greater independence in their lives. Both the underlying AI-driven automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology (by its capabilities to recognise and translate highly non-standard speech in various noise environments and in various languages) and the ensuing product (through its accessible interface for people with diverse range of speech, mobility, cognitive and dexterity impairments) are expected to be transformative, progressing beyond state of the art in the industries of speech recognition and assistive technologies (i.e. disability-tech niche market). Within these industries, there are currently no devices or software that can simultaneously recognize non-normal speech patterns, offer real-time communication, enable voice based environmental control, and cater holistically to the dexterity and social inclusivity challenges of individuals with speech disabilities
In this respect, the Nuvoic Home product’s overall advantages to the customer are having all these attributes within one device. Nuvoic Home’s hands-free, and compact attributes enhances the user autonomy, allowing them to operate the device with minimal to no assistants from caregivers. Real-time communication in the user's natural voice enhances the quality of understanding between caregivers or health professionals and users.
The activities performed within the context of this project have already yielded initial positive results (as highlighted throughout the deliverables and technical report that described amongst others the description of the trial results, user and caregiver testimonials, and the summary of how the core technology has advanced). The Nuvoic consortium highly benefited from these activities and associated results in achieving its objective to foster greater participation and inclusion for people with disabilities in the workforce, healthcare settings, and social environments as well as greater quality of life and safety during a pandemic era through reduced reliance on caregiver support.