Autism spectrum disorder affects one in 59 American children, and of this population, 40% are non-verbal. Matthew Guggemos and Lois Jean Brady are speech language pathologists and autism specialists who built the InnerVoice app, a revolutionary communication app with facial animation and emotional inflection using text-to-speech, to address autism-related speech challenges.
An easy-to-use communication app
The InnerVoice app uses avatars and visual language modeling in order simulate how parents teach their children to talk, using Microsoft AI. A user can easily choose a picture of a face to create an animated 3D avatar that teaches speech, language, and social communication skills. Touching emojis and typing a message makes the avatars express emotions through facial expressions and tone of voice.
ReadSpeaker is proud to partner with iTherapy to provide human-like text-to-speech voices for InnverVoice’s avatars.
See how the InnerVoice app works
Learning with video modeling
Every day we communicate verbally and nonverbally. We show how we feel and place emphasis on words through body language and vocal inflections. The same sentence has different meanings depending on how it is delivered. For people with communication and social interaction difficulties, seeing and listening to how an avatar speaks is a beneficial learning tool called video modeling.
Video modeling is a method of teaching where the learner watches a video demonstrating a behavior or skill. Video takes the pressure off of the learner, because the learner does not have to engage with the teacher in the video.
Instead of a single video recording, InnerVoice is a dynamic video as the avatar animation and text-to-speech are made in real time. Plus, you can add words and personalize the avatar. When you add a picture of yourself for your avatar, you practice self-modeling, where you learn through watching yourself perform an action or skill. Since the avatar is always ready to speak, the learning possibilities are endless.
While InnerVoice was designed as a learning and communication tool, it’s also meant to be fun. Why is it so important to have fun? Matthew Guggemos answers, “We learn complex things better when we do so in a fun way. I don’t care how smart you are. If you’re listening to a lecture on high level statistics you’re not going to grasp everything as well as you would if you made it a game. It’s easier if you make it a game because it activates the reward center of your brain.”
The app is about what works for you. If you don’t like the way your avatar looks or talks, you can change it! Play around with adding photos of athletes, movie stars, or your pets. You can share videos of your talking avatar with friends and family as a fun way to keep in touch.
Communication for everyone
The original motivation behind making InnerVoice was to provide a communication tool for people with autism, but the app has become a resource for all non-verbal people. “There’s a bias that all non-verbal people have a cognitive disability,” says Matthew Guggemos, “That they can’t understand anything simply because they can’t talk. And that’s not true. Take Stephen Hawking for example. It looks like he’s staring off into the distance. But through his communication device we’re able to understand that there’s a lot going on in his mind. We’re trying to break this bias by helping non-verbal people communicate.”
Does that mean InnerVoice is only for non-verbal people? With the avatar customization and video sharing across platforms, it’s about communication for everyone. “With the Universal Design concept, it’s making one thing everyone can use. That’s the gold standard,” says Matthew Guggemos, “Not making something and then making another version specific to disabilities. We want the avatars and the video clips you make to be funny. We’re making it cool for everyone to talk with an avatar.”
InnerVoice is so easy to use and anyone with an iOS device can use it. Read more about InnerVoice here.