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University of Buffalo Researchers Develop “The Talker” for Vets with TBI

Researchers at the University at Buffalo (UB) and Applied Sciences Group (ASG), a high-tech firm, hope that an improved version of The Talker can help disabled veterans reconnect to the world. In 2003, one of the first projects at UB’s Center for Socially Relevant Computing was the development of The Talker, a program that “speaks” for people who no longer can.

For veterans suffering serious physical or cognitive wounds, assistive technology makes it easier for them to remember appointments, keep in touch with loved ones and use their computers. Veterans hospitals are starting to turn to assistive technology — everything from iPads to Livescribe smart pens — to try to give their disabled patients more control over their lives.

UB researchers and their partners at began testing this Talker and related equipment in March at a veterans hospital in Tampa, Florida. David Jauch was its first user. The brain stem stroke he suffered at 24 robbed him of his speech and left him with only limited use of his left arm. To communicate, he pointed to words on a sheet of paper. With the Talker program, Jauch holds a stylus in his left hand and carefully taps letters on a touch-sensitive screen on a laptop computer to spell his words. A voice reads each letter out loud and, at the end, speaks the sentence for Jauch.

A second UB team worked with ASG to develop an enhanced version of the Talker to assist veterans who can’t speak and who can’t use their hands. This Talker also is being tested in Tampa. If the testing goes well, all of this technology could be introduced to a wider pool of users.

For the entire article: Through Technology, Disabled Vets Reconnect


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