Human communication

Professor and pianist gets patent for communication app News Keene State College

A collaboration between a university professor and a world-renowned concert pianist has resulted in a revolutionary application for speech and communication.

Professor Larry Welkowitz, Professor of Psychology at Keene State College, and pianist Robert Taub have created the one-touch app – SpeechMatch – which provides immediate visual feedback on matching key elements of conversational speech for better social interaction.

Above all, SpeechMatch aims to help people with autism.

The invention, patented in the United States, provides progress data and allows users to personalize their experiences by entering their own phrases with the built-in phrase library.

A state-of-the-art software engine that is the basis of the application is central to the proprietary right granted by the government.

Dr. Welkowitz points out that “people with autism tend to talk to you rather than to you. “SpeechMatch,” he says, “is user-friendly, data-driven software that boosts these essential social skills by helping to shape speech in ways that foster social interaction.

In clinical studies, Welkowitz notes, SpeechMatch demonstrated statistically significant improvement in conversational speech.

“It provides users with immediate visual feedback on how well they match key elements of conversational speech,” he says, “including emotional content, rhythm and volume. These parts of speech turn out to be the most important when we talk with anyone. The single app can also help end social isolation by allowing users to be aware of natural social conversation patterns, Welkowitz says.

Taub headed the company that developed some of the audio processing software used in Guitar Hero. He is Music Director of the Arts Institute at the University of Plymouth in the UK.

“Human communication is critically important to all of us,” Taub said. “It’s very exciting to be part of building a platform that helps people communicate better.”

SpeechMatch was the basis of INBRE-NH (Innovative Biomedical Research Excellence) funded research administered by Dartmouth Medical Center and the National Institute of Health (NIH). Studies have shown the app’s usefulness in helping people with diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorders improve conversational speech.

Features of the app include progress tracking and allow families to enter phrases to supplement those provided by the program.

SpeechMatch is available in the Apple Store for download on iPhone and iPad.

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