Visual speech recognition to benefit tracheostomy patients

Liopa, a spin out of the Centre for Secure Information Technologies at Queen’s University Belfast has announced that it is to deliver a prototype patient/carer communications aid to be used by tracheostomy patients in critical care environments.

The company has secured Innovate UK funding to work with Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Queen’s University Belfast to develop SRAVI (Speech Recognition App for the Voice Impaired). Liopa specialises in visual speech recognition that deciphers speech from lip movement.

The app aims to provide an easy-to-use, accurate and cost effective communication channel between patients, family members and healthcare staff. The solution will integrate with LipRead, Liopa’s artificial intelligence engine for Visual Speech Recognition.

This initial project will focus on a select group of patients with tracheostomies (approximately 10,000 tracheostomies are performed annually in the UK) who currently struggle to vocalise but can move their lips normally. Whilst the initial prototype will support a limited vocabulary in English, the application is planned to be further developed to support larger vocabularies across multiple languages.

Clinical Professor Danny McAuley at QUB’s Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine and Consultant “The inability to communicate during an ICU stay is a major source of morbidity for patients, family and staff. A patient’s non-verbal attempts to communicate are often difficult to understand which can be frustrating for patients and carers. This novel approach may allow better communication between the patient, staff and family from an early stage.”

Liam McQuillan, Co-founder and CEO, Liopa “This is an innovative application of our proven AI-based Visual Speech Recognition (VSR) system LipRead. LipRead analyses and translates lip movements into recognisable words. The technology allows the translation of lip movement to text using a mobile app on a mobile device which will need very little training and is inexpensive.”

“SRAVI can be deployed on commodity smartphones and tablets, that can be used by multiple patients. Alternative technologies, such as ‘eye-gaze’ systems, require bespoke hardware and are generally much more expensive.”

Shondipon Laha, Consultant in Critical Care and Anaesthesia, Lancashire Teaching Hospital “This project will address a government priority to implement new digital solutions in the NHS. SRAVI will deliver improved patient-carer communications for patients with tracheostomies, thus reducing rehabilitation times in expensive ICU settings.”

The project will run for 9 months and will include an evaluation phase, carried out in hospital critical care environments in Lancashire and Belfast.