“To Build Voice Recognition for Early Literacy, SoapBox Labs Gives Kids a Voice”

In an exclusive ahead of our big partnership announcement tomorrow, leading US education publication EdSurge today published this feature story on SoapBox Labs.

Written by EdSurge Managing Editor, Tony Wan, the piece shares our origin story and explains why voice tech for kids is such a specialist area. Tony also divulges some details about our new partnership with Florida State University’s renowned Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) in advance of the official announcement tomorrow.

Highlight extracts from the article are shared below. Read the full article here.

“The vocal cords and their development are vastly different between children and adults. Some kids tend to over-enunciate or elongate words, and say things in ways that adults just don’t,” says Scanlon. “This messes with the speech recognition systems that were built for adults.”

Dr. Patricia Scanlon, CEO and Founder, SoapBox Labs

The goal is to build a robust data set that reflects the range of dialects and pronunciations in which English is spoken across the world, and which can be used to build tools that assess for speech and oral fluency. Scanlon says it should be possible, for example, for users to tune a system to recognize that different pronunciation of words are acceptable.

SoapBox does not develop user-facing products, but licenses its speech recognition tools to 25 other organizations that integrate them into their products. They include the MIT Media Lab, which is using the system for an educational robotics project, and Lingumi, a developer of an English learning app for young children. The company has also partnered with Microsoft to bring its speech-recognition tools onto its cloud computing platform Azure.

“It’s critically important that we have a speech-recognition system that is able to take into account non-mainstream English, and that kids are not going to be misidentified as having a problem like dyslexia just because they speak differently or in a different dialect,” he says.

dr. yaacov Petscher, Florida center for reading research @FSU

The plan is to test another 1,000 students in 2020, and another 600 the following year. “The major pieces are looking at how speech recognition can accurately judge a child’s response compared to a traditional assessor or teacher scoring of child accuracy on reading and language items,” he adds.

Dr. Yaacov petscher, Florida center for reading research @FSU

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