Tech that assists those with speech impairments, telemedicine for mapping public health

This year’s trend to develop technologies that solve specific but important problems, such as improving navigation for the visually impaired, [TTA 8 June] continues:

  • Voice-controlled assistance systems are becoming commonplace, from improved interactive voice response (IVR) to Siri, Echo, and Alexa. Their limitation is that their recognition systems understand only standard, not impaired or even heavily accented speech. For those with the latter, a Tel Aviv-based startup called Voiceitt has developed Talkitt, an app that learns an individual’s speech based on basic, everyday spoken (or typed input) phrases and after a training period, converts them into normal audio speech or text messages on a tablet or smartphone. This aids with everyday life as well as devices like Echo and Alexa. Voiceitt is out of the Dreamit Health accelerator and was just seed funded with $2 million. This Editor notes from the TechCrunch article that it’s described as ‘the thin edge of the wedge’ and ‘a market with need’. It will be introduced this year to health systems and schools to assist those with speech impairments due to health conditions. Hat tip to Editor Emeritus Steve Hards
  • Diagnosing degenerative diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, which is preventable but if untreated eventually blinds the patient, is doubly difficult when the patient is in a rural, economically disadvantaged, predominantly minority, and medically underserved area of the US. Ophthalmologist Seema Garg has been on a quest since 2009 to have this recognized as a public health threat. The North Carolina Diabetic Retinopathy Telemedicine Network out of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, headed by Dr. Garg, collaborated with five NC clinics to recruit patients with diabetes. Her team then trained primary care staff to take digital retinal photographs transmitted over a secure network to be examined for symptoms. The public health study used Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-mapping for patient accessibility to ophthalmologists, demographics, and risk factors such as higher A1C levels, minority race, older age, kidney disease, and stroke. JAMA Ophthalmology, Futurity  Hat tip to Toni Bunting of TASK Ltd. (and former TTA Ireland editor)
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