Client: Larry Welkowitz, PhD and Robert Taub, DMA
Dr. Larry Welkowitz, a Professor of Psychology at Keene State College in New Hampshire, has a long-standing interest in helping people with autism communicate more fully. Dr. Welkowitz found that people with autism often have difficulty with three parameters of speech – volume, pacing, and emotion – that are critical in social conversation. It could be helpful to match these parameters in ways that are more socially acceptable, thereby reversing cycles of social isolation, and even enhancing educational and employment opportunities. Dr. Welkowitz partnered with Dr. Robert Taub, developer of mobile software that evaluates music performance (and was used in Guitar Hero), to adapt such software for speech therapy in order to provide a robust platform for speech analysis and evaluation with synchronous visual feedback.
The resulting product, SpeechMatch, is a mobile platform that “shapes” speech by guiding individuals to match audio contours of phrases for the three previously identified critical parameters of speech – volume, pacing, and emotional content.
With their technology development well underway, Drs. Welkowitz and Taub received business development guidance from TREAT to translate their innovation from the laboratory into a commercial product that meets the needs of their customers. Dr. Welkowitz explains, “I was only looking at our product from a research perspective. Through our interviews, surveys and focus groups with stakeholders we tested our assumptions of what the product should be. We learned how value is perceived differently by different subsets of our market population. By understanding and integrating the different responses from the different groups into the product, we were able to update key design characteristics of the software and greatly improve the user experience.”
As part of their work on business model development, the pair conducted market assessment activities and interviews with practitioners and educators to more clearly define their target buyers. Through TREAT advisement on regulatory and reimbursement strategy, they learned how mental health third party payers handle computer-based training tools for autism. Funding from TREAT enabled the team to implement critical updates to core software as well as build the infrastructure for data acquisition and analysis thereby enabling users to track progress, a feature they verified as crucial for commercialization.
The team continues to expand the capabilities of the platform and demonstrate its value to parents, clinicians, educators and people with autism. And we are excited that SpeechMatch is launching this month on both Apple and Google stores. To learn more about SpeechMatch, visit https://www.speechmatch.com/
“The TREAT model was perfect for us. It was the tipping point to take the product where it needed to go. The program provides structure to move forward step by step and we derived benefit from everyone with whom we spoke at TREAT.”
- Date December 6, 2018