Interview with Danny Weissberg & Sara Smolley, Co-Founders of Voiceitt
What is Voiceitt, how is it used and how does it help people with disabilities?
[Danny]: Voiceitt is an AI-powered speech recognition app for individuals with speech impairments, which translates atypical speech to allow users to communicate in their own voice with loved ones, caretakers and others. The app also facilitates communication with smart home devices such as Alexa, enabling those with speech impairments (which are often coupled with other disabilities) to perform daily tasks independently such as turning on lights, turning on the TV, playing music and more. Voiceitt is integrated with Amazon Alexa Services, meaning that users can control Alexa-connected smart home devices seamlessly with the Voiceitt app, offering them a whole new level of independence.
[Sara]: When setting up Voiceitt, users are prompted to train the application on specific phrases so that the app can learn each person’s unique way of pronouncing that phrase. Voiceitt comes with suggested phrases for various environments and uses like schools or smart homes, as well as an option for a customized dictionary created by the user.
The Voiceitt app has two modes; Talk, and Smart Home. Voiceitt Talk translates atypical speech and plays the desired output using a unique automatic speech recognition (ASR) engine. Voiceitt Talk helps in everyday situations like allowing the user to order food in a restaurant or communicate with caretakers or loved ones using their own voices.
Voiceitt is integrated with Amazon Alexa, allowing users to control their voice-activated connected home with their own voice independently. The user can send a command to the smart assistant, e.g., Amazon Alexa, through an integrated API. The desired command is relayed to the smart assistant seamlessly through the Voiceitt app, allowing the smart assistant to carry out the task. In this way, users can perform daily tasks such as controlling channels on their TV or turning on a light – offering them a new degree of independence they never had before.
What led you to start Voiceitt and when was it started?
[Danny]: I grew up very close to my grandmother, when suddenly, as a result of a stroke, her speech became impaired. After a number of visits to see her, I realized that the nurse who cared for her was able to understand her speech. It was then that I had an epiphany: if a nurse can learn to comprehend difficult-to-understand speech, why can’t technology? That began my mission to create Voiceitt, an app that makes speech recognition technology accessible to everyone, giving a voice to all. I formally co-founded the company with Stas Tiomkin in 2012.
[Sara]: I joined Voiceitt as a Co-Founder a few years after Danny and Stas started the company. I was always interested in combining business with social impact and finding ways to use technology to truly improve lives. I continue to be inspired by his and our team’s passion and commitment to using the best that AI driven technologies have to offer to make lives and society better.
Voiceitt can help more people than just those with disabilities. What organizations are you working with to offer Voiceitt? How does it benefit the organization? Are there limitations?
[Sara]: We work with a number of organizations across the globe. In the US we are working with Easter Seals of Greater Houston, an organization that provides people with disabilities access to educational and therapeutic tools, which conducted a pilot with Voiceitt as part of their BridgingApps program. We also worked with the Department of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) of Tennessee, which, along with The Arc of Tennessee, participated in a pilot of Voiceitt’s technology. We also work with the Karten Network in the UK, IMEC in Belgium and other organizations globally.
[Danny]: These organizations share Voiceitt’s vision of improving the lives of individuals with disabilities, and they look for technology or products that not only assist and help the communities they serve, but which also empower them.
We are currently working to have Voiceitt covered or subsidized by insurance and/or government programs so that the people who most need it can access it at no cost to them.
Any expansion plans?
[Sara]: We launched our app to the public in June this year, and are always looking to expand and bring Voiceitt to more people who need it around the world. A unique aspect of Voiceitt is that the technology is language independent, so you can use the app in Spanish, Japanese or Swahili. We have plans in place to partner with more organizations and companies, and integrate with other technologies. We are working hard to make speech recognition technology accessible to everyone, so stay tuned for exciting updates
Are you looking for investors? If so, how can they reach you?
[Danny]: We are always looking for investors and partners so we can expand our team, develop new features and ultimately provide the best product and service to the communities we serve. We also offer the option for corporations to sponsor Voiceitt on behalf of individuals with disabilities through non-profit organizations. You can always get in touch with us on our website.
Voiceitt isn’t just an app, it’s a way of communicating, promoting inclusion and independence through the power of voice. Voiceitt’s mission is to help those with non-standard speech use their own voice to communicate and be understood as well as control their smart homes independently.
Being reliant on someone else has an impact on one’s sense of self and independence. Using the Voiceitt app, individuals who once had to call someone to turn off a light can now turn it off themselves, change the TV channel, or play their favorite music, creating a sense of self-reliance that is empowering.