IDEA Spotlight: Speech Therapy Made Easy

The Palatometer projects tongue movements onto a computer screen, providing a clear visual of how you thpeak — sorry, speak.

Used to be, therapists would put your tongue through all sorts of unspeakable horrors to determine the particulars of a speech impediment — coating it in honey and charcoal powder, prodding it with a tongue-depressor, the list goes on. A new device by Rocketship, Inc. and CompleteSpeech makes it easy to see precisely what your tongue is doing, without turning your mouth into an all-out war zone.

The Palatometer projects tongue movements onto a computer screen, providing a clear visual of how you talk so that the therapy itself can proceed more efficiently. The device is made up of three parts. A palate studded in more than 100 gold-plated "contacts" records how your tongue moves and slips into your mouth like a retainer. Around your neck, a micro-processor (shown above) transmits speech data to software, which is then able to show, in a real-time computer model, how your tongue’s hitting your palate. That pops up on the screen in blue; the right way to pronounce shows up in green, so you know right away why you’re not articulating your "r’s" properly. See a demonstration here:

It might sound like a lot of tech for nothing, but it’s actually great at capturing the complexities of natural speech compared with the old tongue-coating method, which records just one sound at a time (though the Palatometer can capture isolated sounds, too). CompleteSpeech claims most patients improve significantly after 10 to 12 sessions, and some after just five or six sessions.

The Palatometer just won gold in the 2010 International Design Excellence Awards. Juror Michelle Berryman commended it for seeming "to de-stigmatize the therapy..." Well, we’re not sure about that. The device, while ostensibly more comfortable than getting a stick shoved down your throat, is pretty nerdy-looking — maybe a notch above headgear. For kids, that’s all the stigma they need. But hey, anything to get out of thpeech therapy fathter.

For more IDEA award winners, click here.

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