November 6th 2019

Florida State University’s world-renowned Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) today announced a multi-year partnership with Dublin based, kids’ speech recognition technology company SoapBox Labs, to create and deliver next-generation language and literacy assessments that could transform how young children around the world learn to read.

Pioneering Reading Research Center Leverages Speech Recognition for Early Literacy Assessment

Florida State University selects SoapBox Labs in multi-year partnership that aims to transform our understanding of early literacy skills

“SoapBox Labs has developed a unique speech recognition technology that actually works for children,” said Dr. Yaacov Petscher, an Associate Director at FCRR and Associate Professor at FSU. “This collaboration is about harnessing the transformative potential of speech recognition technology to develop next-generation literacy assessments that will enable educators to better understand children’s reading and language skills. Speech recognition holds immense potential, to better identify a child’s likelihood for literacy success, and to reduce the risk of bias for dual language learners or children who speak with a dialect variation. An immersive, reliable, and efficient assessment system like this can hopefully revolutionize the way we think about assessing children.”

Dr. Yaacov Petscher, Florida Center for Reading Research @FSU

Developing literacy skills during early childhood is a critical foundation to later student success in school and life, but literacy remains a challenge for millions of children around the world. While literacy assessment is critical to identifying challenges early on, young children are unable to perform the sort of tasks associated with traditional formative assessments.

Unlike the speech recognition technology found in mainstream voice assistants, SoapBox Labs’ speech recognition technology was built specifically for kids and their early literacy needs.

“This technology was developed to identify at a very early stage when kids are struggling with language or literacy development,” stated Dr. Patricia Scanlon, Founder and CEO of SoapBox Labs. “Our technology delivers an interactive process that is accurate, providing immediate feedback to children, parents and teachers on a child’s progress along the journey to literacy.”

Dr. Patricia Scanlon, CEO and Founder, SoapBox Labs

FCRR’s pilot studies of SoapBox Labs’ speech recognition technology commenced in September 2019 with assessments of 1,000 students – from kindergarten through 2nd grade – across Florida, Oregon, Atlanta and South Carolina.

The partnership between SoapBox Labs and FCRR is part of the Reach Every Reader initiative, a partnership between the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the MIT Integrated Learning Initiative, Florida State University, and expert practitioners, students and families across the US to develop effective solutions for readers. Reach Every Reader was launched in early 2018 with funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI).

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About SoapBox Labs

SoapBox Labs is a speech technology company specializing in kids’ speech recognition. Founded in Dublin in 2013, our mission is to deliver the power of voice to kids everywhere by developing the world’s most accurate, safe, and age appropriate speech technology. 

SoapBox Labs technology is proprietary and built using a privacy-by-design approach. Our online and offline solutions voice-enable education focused products (literacy and English language learning) as well as smart toys, robotics, apps, games and accessible tech.

SoapBox Labs was named one of Europe’s hottest startups by Wired UK in 2019. The company was founded by Dr. Patricia Scanlon, one of Forbes Top 50 Women in Tech globally in 2018. For more information, contact Niamh Bushnell at Niamh@SoapBoxLabs.com

About FCRR

The Florida Center for Reading Research is a multidisciplinary research center at Florida State University that explores all aspects of reading research — basic research into literacy-related skills for typically developing readers and those who struggle, studies of effective prevention and intervention, and psychometric work on formative assessment. For more information, please contact Nathan Archer at narcher@fcrr.org.

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