Giving a voice to those who need it most

By: Michael Murphy
Israel-based startup creates voice-to-voice application for those affected by speech disabilities
Talkitt App

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that nearly 20 percent of people in the U.S. have a disability.  To celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October, we’ll be sharing stories, videos, social and multimedia to recognize the important role disabilities play in the workforce. #InclusionWorks

More than a year ago, Danny Weissberg, co-founder and CEO of Talkitt, was approached by the creator of TinyTap, an edtech startup looking to integrate Talkitt’s voice-to-voice speech technology into an educational game they wanted to develop for children. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that a colleague sent Weissberg an article about the Verizon Powerful Answers Award program, and he realized that TinyTap was the prior year’s $1M Verizon Powerful Answers Award winner in the ‘education’ category.

That was inspiration enough. In the months that followed, Weissberg entered his startup’s application, Voiceitt, into the 2014 Verizon Powerful Answers Award – and ultimately won $250,000 in prize money in the ‘healthcare’ category to develop his company’s life-changing technology.

Weissberg reveals that he and his team often get emails from potential users expressing their excitement for the app’s release. He says there’s simply nothing available like it today, and no other natural means of communicating with loved ones affected by speech or language disorders.

“For us, bringing Voiceitt to market is so important because of the impact it will have on people’s ability to communicate freely with loved ones,” said Weissberg. “You know when you see these people that it will change their life, and this award is enabling us to fulfill a commitment to the community.”

Voiceitt is a voice-to-voice application that can translate distorted pronunciation to understandable speech, filling a gap for what Talkitt estimates as the 1.5 percent of the population affected by speech disabilities. It is the first app to be developed by Talkitt, but surely not the last. Weissberg has already started working on a voice-to-motion app based on the same technology concept to help people with cognitive and motor disabilities translate motion on a device screen.

The application can be used in a variety of settings, including in the workplace. Weissberg said that individuals that cannot speak clearly, whether it from a medical issue suffered or a degenerative disease, should not lose their work because of their disability. “Take the example of an attorney, a profession that requires speech in some form. If an attorney loses their ability to speak, the app is designed to be the voice for them,” Weissberg said. “Workplaces need a better solution for people who to continue to work despite their disability. Voiceitt is the only solution offered to people who lost their ability to speak in the most natural form: speech.”

He added, “For potential users and their families, our product is something that they’ve really been waiting for. Now with this award from Verizon, we have the resources to share our timeline and deliver the product.”

This article originally appeared on the Verizon Wireless News Center.