Voice-activated technologies like Google Assistant have become hugely popular. You can ask Google Assistant to call someone for you, send a text message, read a text message aloud, tell you how the weather will be, dim the lights in your home. The list goes on!
Google has very good voice recognition. It is actually amazing that a machine can listen to you talk, convert it into text, understand it and then carry out an instruction. All of this was made possible by machine learning and artificial intelligence. Computer algorithms were trained to recognise speech using huge datasets of voice samples from people with unimpaired speech.
Voice-activated technologies could be particularly helpful for people with acquired neurological conditions such as Motor Neurone Disease/ALS especially in cases where the individual has reduced mobility or is wheelchair bound. However many individuals who have a neurological condition also have dysarthria or slurred speech and it is usually impossible for them to be understood by voice activated technologies.
That’s why Google have started the Project Euphonia project. The project team is exploring ways to improve speech recognition for people who have neurological conditions such as Motor Neurone Disease/ALS. To do this, Google will need hundreds of thousands of voice samples from people with dysarthria e.g. sentences they have read. These recordings will then be used as examples for computer algorithms to learn to recognise.
Project Euphonia is also working to 'translate' dysarthric speech at the same speed as it is spoken. The words would appear on a screen, or on a smartphone. This would mean that the person would not have to type their message. They could keep talking to the people they want to talk to - and be understood.
Project Euphonia are calling on people with dysarthric/slurred and impaired speech to submit their voice samples. If your speech is difficult to understand due to a neurological condition you can help! Please fill out this form to volunteer and record a set of phrases.
Extra note: If you are a speech therapist in the UK, The MND Association can provide a microphone or computer to help. Richard Cave from the MND Association can also visit your team to provide more information. You can get in touch with Richard by email.