Voice Input Voice Output Communication Aid (VIVOCA)

The project aims to develop a portable (eventually body-worn) speech-in/speech-out communication aid for people with disordered or unintelligible speech, initially concentrating on people with moderate to severe dysarthria (people who have difficulty in controlling and co-ordinating the muscles used in speech). The device will effectively translate the speech of a dysarthric person into clear speech output (synthesised or recorded). This will be of use to dysarthric people in social situations where they interact with non-familiar communication partners, such as at work, when shopping, in the hospital, on the telephone etc.. There is ample evidence to show that such a device is needed and would be of benefit. The intention is to provide the user with a device that performs like a human interpreter, recognising the disordered speech and producing an intelligible equivalent.

The work builds on the STARDUST project (NEAT A230), which successfully developed a means for dysarthric people to control assistive technology by speech, but requires many innovative steps to address this particularly challenging problem, including the development of:

  • Techniques for optimising recognition of variable speech in noisy environments
  • Speech interpretation and translation in a natural and acceptable way
  • A means of allowing the aid to be portable (including body-worn) and to help natural face to face communication
  • Techniques for adaptation as the speech and the needs of the user change over time, including for people with progressive neurological disease (e.g. MND)