CognoSpeak team recognised for efforts to build AI tech without bias

The team behind a new AI tool that could help doctors spot the early signs of dementia more quickly and efficiently has been recognised for its partnership efforts to build AI technology without bias.

CognoSpeak team engaging at Israac Community Centre

The CognoSpeak team is one of six finalists in the ‘Excellence in Patient and Public Involvement in Transformation and Innovation’ category at the prestigious Innovate Awards 2023.

The CognoSpeak digital tool uses a virtual agent displayed on a screen to engage a patient in a conversation. It asks memory-probing questions inspired by those used in outpatient consultations and conducts cognitive tests, such as picture descriptions and verbal fluency tests. The tool then uses artificial intelligence and speech technology to analyse language and speech patterns to look for signs of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other memory disorders.

Researchers behind the innovative technology are working to make the tool accessible to patients from ethnic minority communities who are less likely to engage with dementia services and who may speak English as an additional language.

As part of this work, which involves training the technology with a range of regional accents and those who speak English as an additional language, the team has been working in partnership with Sheffield’s Israac Somali Community Association (Israac).

CognoSpeak team at giving a demonstration at Israac Community Centre

Professor Heidi Christensen, Head of the University’s Department of Computer Science and the technical lead of the CognoSpeak project, said: “We’re very proud to have been selected as a finalist alongside some brilliant institutions doing such inspirational work to improve the quality of people's lives.

“AI systems learn to make decisions based on the data they’re trained on, which can often lead to bias if data isn’t selected carefully. 

“That’s why we’ve partnered with Israac, other community groups and our local NIHR Devices for Dignity Medtech Co-operative, not only to develop the tool so it is accessible to all, but to make the technology as accurate with underrepresented groups as it is with native English speakers.”

The winner of the award will be announced at the Innovate Awards 2023 ceremony on 21 September 2023.

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