Media Releases

New mobile app gives a voice to those with communications challenges

April 6, 2011

TORONTO, ON – For those liv­ing with apha­sia, autism, and oth­er con­di­tions that affect speech abil­i­ty, com­mu­ni­cat­ing with friends and loved ones can be a chal­lenge. MyVoice, a mobile app and serv­er sys­tem that oper­ates on iPhone and Android devices, gives users with these con­di­tions a voice by sim­ply tap­ping words and pic­tures on a screen.

“Peo­ple liv­ing with apha­sia talk about the fear and iso­la­tion they some­times feel because they can­not com­mu­ni­cate as they once did,” says Apha­sia Researcher and post­doc­tor­al fel­low Dr. Alexan­dra Car­ling-Row­land. “MyVoice will help to increase com­mu­ni­ca­tion con­fi­dence, par­tic­i­pa­tion and inde­pen­dence.”

Launch­ing today, MyVoice is the first assis­tive and aug­men­ta­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion (AAC) device to intro­duce loca­tion-aware vocab­u­lary that sug­gests use­ful words and phras­es based on a user’s loca­tion. At Tim Horton’s, for exam­ple, MyVoice instant­ly gen­er­ates items like “Tim Bits” and “Dou­ble Dou­ble” for use in con­ver­sa­tion.

MyVoice was devel­oped with­in the Tech­nolo­gies for Aging Grace­ful­ly Lab (TAGlab), under the direc­tion of Pro­fes­sor Ron Baeck­er in the Depart­ment of Com­put­er Sci­ence. The man­date of the TAGlab is to facil­i­tate research and devel­op­ment to sup­port aging through­out the life course. The lab iden­ti­fies “sweet spots” where tech­nol­o­gy seems rel­e­vant to human need, then envi­sions ways in which the tech­nol­o­gy could address those needs. The lab then designs and tests pro­to­types. The tech­nol­o­gy will be fur­ther sup­port­ed through the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Inno­va­tions and Part­ner­ships Office (IPO) with respect to part­ner­ships, com­mer­cial­iza­tion, and fund­ing.

“This is an excel­lent exam­ple of how uni­ver­si­ty research makes a direct and pos­i­tive impact on the chal­lenges that face peo­ple around the world,” says Pro­fes­sor Paul Young, Vice Pres­i­dent, Research at U of T.  “MyVoice is just one of the many projects our Inno­va­tions and Part­ner­ships Office is devel­op­ing with U of T fac­ul­ty so we can move our bril­liant research from our cam­pus­es to the glob­al mar­ket­place.”

MyVoice is dra­mat­i­cal­ly more afford­able than tra­di­tion­al speak­ing aids. Where tra­di­tion­al aids aver­age in cost at $12,000, MyVoice allows users to try the tech­nol­o­gy for free and upgrade to a full fea­tured ver­sion for a $30-month­ly sub­scrip­tion cost.

“More than 90 per cent of peo­ple with com­mu­ni­ca­tion chal­lenges use prim­i­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion aids, or no aids at all,” says MyVoice CEO, Alexan­der Levy. “MyVoice will always be acces­si­ble to any­one with a com­mu­ni­ca­tion chal­lenge.”

Along with already received fund­ing from Google, Android, and NSERC, MyVoice has received requests from insti­tu­tions, col­lab­o­ra­tors, and school boards to tri­al the tech­nol­o­gy with their con­stituents. The device is cur­rent­ly in use at a school in the Toron­to Dis­trict School Board.

“I was com­plete­ly blown away by MyVoice,” says Researcher Dr. Rhon­da McEwen at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to. “It absolute­ly met so many deficits I had in cur­rent research with oth­er appli­ca­tions I was using.“Some chil­dren have no ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion. MyVoice gives them a chance to cross clos­er to our world, where we have words and voic­es.”

To learn more about MyVoice, vis­it


MyVoice Media Con­tact:
Andrew Rusk