Video game to cure children of stammering


The video game Fluency Friends from the Leuven start-up SAY IT Labs may be able to help cure children with a stammer of their problem more quickly and easily in the near future – and it will even be fun!

With the right therapy, children can grow out of their stammer sooner. This was the conclusion that Erich Reiter and Lukas Latacz, two Belgian experts in speech therapy and technology, came to. They see Fluency Friends as a highly recommended supplement to the classical sessions with a speech therapist.

The major areas for consideration with a stammer are pacing, tone, volume and breathing. The duo address these in abundance, each intermingled with the others. The players must make the characters carry out all manner of actions using their voice. Saying as many words as possible and getting the breathing right are two aspects that play a role in this. This puts speech recognition at the heart of the therapy. But it turned out to be no easy task to make this suitable for people with a speech disorder, such as making the algorithms work with inaccurate articulation. Moreover, the game had to be designed such that the child could apply their skills in real life.

SAY IT Labs, a spin-off from the VUB, in collaboration with the imec research centre, will bring out a Dutch and English-language version of Fluency Friends as a tablet app, as well as a version for desktops and laptops, later this year. The game is currently still being tested with 50 patients in the US.