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Augmented reality tongue model could transform speech therapy

Thursday 9th November 2017
Scientists in France have created a new augmented reality system that can provide speech therapists with more accurate images of patients tongues. Image: patrisyu via iStock
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French scientists have developed an innovative new piece of technology that has the potential to significantly improve the delivery of speech and language therapy in the future.

In the journal Speech Communication, doctors explain that they have used augmented reality to create a virtual 'talking head' complete with a moving tongue, which should enable them to better understand people's speech issues and how they can be resolved.

Scientists based at the National Centre for Scientific Research in France have found a way to convert ultrasound scan results of the tongue into their augmented reality system, with the images generated of a much higher quality than any that have been achieved with previous technology.

The team behind the innovation explained that the talking head produced from these scan images is almost like a virtual clone of a real speaker. This means data on speech impediments and other communication issues can be gathered more accurately and made more accessible to others in the field.

Not only will these clearer images help experts to diagnose problems with greater accuracy, it will also help patients themselves to see the movements of their tongue in real time, so they can better understand how to change them in order to improve their pronunciation where necessary.

Previously, therapists have typically had to rely on drawings of the tongue to try to explain these issues to patients.

Investigations are currently underway to explore whether the technology could also be used on patients who have undergone tongue surgery as part of their post-operative speech and language therapy.

Meanwhile, the scientists are testing whether the talking head model can also be animated by patients' voices as well as ultrasound images. If these trials prove successful, the invention could prove even more versatile for speech and language therapists in the future.

Written by Martin Lambert

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