Spin-out to deliver prototype communications aid for tracheostomy patients

A spin-out of the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) has announced that it is to deliver a prototype patient-carer communications aid to be used by tracheostomy patients in critical care environments.

Liopa, which has secured UK Research and Innovation funding, will work alongside Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and QUB to develop SRAVI (Speech Recognition App for the Voice Impaired) to provide a method for communication between patients, family members and healthcare staff. SRAVI will integrate with LipRead, Liopa’s artificial intelligence engine for Visual Speech Recognition.

Clinical professor Danny McAuley at QUB’s Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine and Consultant at the Belfast Trust said: “The inability to communicate during an ICU stay is a major source of morbidity for patients, family and staff. A patient’s non-verbal attempts to communicate are often difficult to understand which can be frustrating for patients and carers. This novel approach may allow better communication between the patient, staff and family from an early stage.”

The initial project will focus on a select group of patients with tracheostomies who currently struggle to vocalise but can move their lips normally. Whilst the initial prototype will support a limited vocabulary in English, the application can be further developed to support larger vocabularies across multiple languages.

Liam McQuillan, co-founder and CEO of Liopa, said: “This is an innovative application of our proven AI-based Visual Speech Recognition (VSR) system LipRead. LipRead analyses and translates lip movements into recognisable words. The technology allows the translation of lip movement to text using a mobile app on a mobile device which will need very little training and is inexpensive. SRAVI can be deployed on commodity smartphones and tablets, that can be used by multiple patients. Alternative technologies, such as ‘eye-gaze’ systems, require bespoke hardware and are generally much more expensive.”

The project will run for nine months and will include an evaluation phase, carried out in hospital critical care environments in Lancashire and Belfast.

Shondipon Laha, consultant in critical care and anaesthesia, Lancashire Teaching Hospital, added: “This project will address a government priority to implement new digital solutions in the NHS. SRAVI will deliver improved patient-carer communications for patients with tracheostomies, thus reducing rehabilitation times in expensive ICU settings.”


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