Belfast Based Startup to Develop a Mobile App, Harnessing Artificial Intelligence, to Provide Communication Tool for Voice-Impaired Patients

LiopaLiopa, a spin out of the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen's University Belfast (QUB) has announced that it is to deliver a prototype patient/carer communications aid. It will be used by tracheostomy patients in critical care environments.

Working along with Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Queen's University Belfast, Liopa will develop SRAVI (Speech Recognition App for the Voice Impaired). Compared to the limited alternatives available, SRAVI will provide an easy-to-use, accurate and cost effective method for communication between these patients, their family members and healthcare staff. SRAVI will integrate with LipRead, Liopa's artificial intelligence engine for Visual Speech Recognition.

This initial project will focus at 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 can 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 at the Belfast Trust commented, "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."

"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," said Liam McQuillan, Co-founder and CEO, Liopa. He continued, "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, explained further, "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. It has been funded by UK Research and Innovation - a new organisation that brings together the UK Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England. This single organisation creates the best environment for research and innovation to flourish, to ensure the UK maintains its world-leading position in research and innovation.

For further information, please visit:
https://liopa.ai

About Liopa

The company was spun out of the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) in 2015. Since then Liopa has been onward developing and commercialising research carried out within the university into the use of Lip Movements (visemes) in Speech Recognition. The company is leveraging QUB’s renowned excellence in the area of speech, speaker and dialogue modelling to position Liopa as a leading independent provider of viseme-based VSR technology.

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