Helping Others Find Their Voice: Project Vive
Spotlight on Our Inaugural GPS Challenge Grand Prize Winner
Our voice is part of the foundation of how we connect with each other. We voice our needs and share our ideas and feelings. It’s how we’re heard. Having a “voice” is fundamental to being an individual.
Meet Arlyn Edelstein. She has cerebral palsy. This is a neuromuscular condition that limits how Arlyn can interact with the world. Along with other disabilities, cerebral palsy has been described as being trapped in your own body.
Now meet the Voz Box. The Voz Box is a patented speech-generating device (SGD) that brings the benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT) to assistive smart technology. Using a network of wearable sensors, the Voz Box makes it easier for Arlyn to communicate with those around her by removing some of her physical limitations. It has also helped Arlyn give voice to the poet that has always been inside her.
One of the most compelling aspects of the Voz Box is its ability to be customized to match the capabilities of its users. Individuals with neuromuscular conditions possess a wide variety of abilities, and what might be a simple motion for one person may be impossible for another.
Currently, speech-generating devices use touch screens or keyboards with large icons. These systems can be difficult to use for those with limited muscular control as the device predetermines the mapping between movement and speech generation. In addition, systems typically cost more than $10K.
Voz Box is built around wearable sensors that can detect small movements. These sensors can be placed where a user chooses: finger, elbow, knee, foot, eye (blink and/or movement). Sensors are self-calibrated to prevent involuntary selections. Furthermore, sensors can be recalibrated over time, extending the use of Voz Box over the years as the movement capabilities of the user change.
Using Bluetooth wireless technology, these wearable sensors form a network around an individual. This network connects to a portable and comfortable speech-generating device, only 3.2” x 4.3” x 2” in size. The device is multilingual and supports both visual- and auditory-based communication. And microprocessor technology has reached the level where the unit can be self-contained, affordable, and not require an Internet connection to operate.
The Voz Box is the brainchild of Mary McCulloch and the Project Vive team. “Vive” comes from the Spanish verb “to live.” Based out of Pennsylvania State University, Project Vive is dedicated to making affordable technology available to those with disabilities.
Project Vive is definitely a company to keep your eye on: the team just placed first in the 2017 Cisco Global Problem Solver (GPS) Challenge, taking home the Grand Prize of $100,000. Our inaugural GPS Challenge included more than 1100 registrants from over 450 schools around the globe.
These are exciting times. We are witnessing the rise of a new generation of global problem solvers like Project Vive. These individuals will not only survive in our increasingly digital economy but are finding ways to change the world for the better.
Like giving a voice to the voiceless.