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TikTalk is bringing AI to speech therapy

The Maryland company launched a mobile app that allows children to practice, and get feedback. It's designed to help speech language therapists, too.

TikTalk's games are speech therapy. (Courtesy photo)

Technology tools like AI, machine learning and speech recognition are developed enough to apply to a number of use cases. So in building the companies that apply these tools to everyday life, entrepreneurs are seeking not just consumers and businesses, but also health and education.

Since 2015, a team of clinicians and technologists at Maryland-based TikTalk is applying these tools to speech therapy, which treats speech and language issues and disorders. In recent months, the company launched its platform, which is designed to be a virtual assistant for speech-language pathologists working with children.

Speech therapy is an area where many professionals aren’t yet using advanced technology, said Nir Gamliel, the Gaithersburg-based head of U.S. business development for the company. There are digital flash cards and games, but not the data-based tools that are becoming more prevalent across other fields.

“We want the speech-language pathologist to use this system as a tool to do their job in a more advanced way, a more effective way and in a way that the kids will adjust much faster,” he said. Of speech-language pathologists, he said, the goal is “not to change the way they are working today, just to improve it.”

TikTalk initially provided a tablet to speech-language pathologists. Now, it has a mobile app for tablet or phone with eight games, which allows it to be downloaded by anyone. However, it must still be activated by a speech-language pathologist — at the end of the day, it’s a therapy tool, Gamliel said.

The company’s cloud-based technology includes a clinician portal, which allows the speech-language pathologist to set up a plan for therapy. Another part of the platform is a series of games that children undergoing therapy can play, and get feedback on their speech. In one example, a word appears, and it must be repeated back. TikTalk’s system then uploads it to the cloud. It has thousands of samples of folks saying a word, and analyzes it by comparing with those responses. Then, it can offer feedback. There was no dataset that the company could draw from, so it is training the system with more use, and in turn that will improve the feedback over time.

Nir Gamliel. (Courtesy photo)

In turn, the speech-language pathologist gets analysis and a report that allows them to hear the child’s interaction, make adjustments and create digital word banks to specific parameters. The technology also creates an accessible way for children to practice at home, which is key to improving. Speech-language pathologists can also customize the therapy protocol to what is needed based on the results of the practice, and monitor progress, Gamliel said. And they can either work face-to-face, or review it at a separate time.

“We’re giving the [speech-language pathologist] a tool which will help them work better and be more flexible, will help them improve and will hopefully shorten the therapy cycle at the end of the day,” Gamliel said.

The company has U.S. offices in the Baltimore area, and another part of its team is in Israel. For initial testing, it has been running a pilot in the Pikesville area, as well as in Cleveland. Locally, Gamliel said the Maryland-Israel Development Center, which promotes economic development, has been a partner providing support along the way.

P.S. We asked about the name, given its similarity to a certain social media app. Gamliel said the company has long been working with its name before the explosion of TikTok over the last year, and isn’t planning to change it.

Companies: TikTalk2Me

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