Tongue-To-Speech (TTS): Wearable Wireless Assistive Device for Augmented Speech
thesisposted on 25.07.2018 by Giacomo Piccinini
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Communication is an essential aspect in human life, in every environment or social aspect of people's life, private or public. In modern society, the word communication does not only refer to speech or vocal communication, but also to silent communication (communication via typed words) since typing devices such as smartphones, tablets and personal computers are extensively used nowadays. There are many different reasons that can cause on individual to have difficulty or inability to communicate. The most common and important disabilities are upper limb disabilities (e.g. spinal cord injury), speech impairments or disorders (e.g. mutism and aphasia), or medical conditions such as fractures or carpal tunnel. We have developed the TongueToSpeech (TTS) device with the goal of augmenting communication for individuals that are affected by these conditions. TTS is a wearable, wireless, non-invasive and discreet assistive device that incorporates a capacitive touch keyboard inside a retainer positioned in the oral cavity. The device is connected via Bluetooth to an Android smartphone application. The developed TTS app, receives the text typed by the tongue on the retainer and displays it on the screen. Using TextToSpeech technology, the app is also able to convert the text into audible speech. Our studies have shown that using a 7 contact points keyboard configuration provides the best results in terms of accuracy, precision and typing speed performances. Tests have shown that it takes 3 days for the user to remember correctly the position of the keys inside the mouth and to obtain steady results at typing the same sentence, while it needs 5 days to remember the position of the letter in the keyboard. On average using TTS inside the oral cavity takes around 2.5-3 times longer than using the T9 configuration on smartphone to type the same phrase. This gap is consistent over time. Our studies have shown that TTS delivers better results in terms of typing performances compared to the assistive device available on the market. In conclusion, we have developed a discreet, non-invasive, wearable and wireless device, that provides a quality solution that helps people with communication problems.