vis­i­Babble Uses Ani­ma­tion and Games to Encourage Early Speech Development

Con­tact: John Natale at 617–373-2802

(1–23-07) BOSTON, Mass. — Just as chil­dren first learn to crawl in order to walk, they also learn to babble in order to talk. For those who struggle with bab­bling due to speech dis­or­ders stem­ming from phys­ical impair­ment, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity pro­fessor Dr. Har­riet Fell has cre­ated vis­i­Babble, an inter­ac­tive dig­ital tool that encour­ages rep­e­ti­tion of foun­da­tional sounds and syl­la­bles through the incen­tive of visually-​​stimulating ani­ma­tion and games.

Through an attached micro­phone, vis­i­Babble lis­tens for chil­dren to utter sounds that are fit­ting for their age range. Upon detecting these sounds, it rewards users with enter­taining moving images ranging from a six-​​piece puzzle that solves itself as a child repeats multi-​​syllabic bab­bles to a fire­works dis­play that gains momentum as a child uses consonant-​​like sounds. As users exper­i­ment with speech, they draw a link between the sounds they create and events that take place on visiBabble’s LCD screen.

Based on a child’s indi­vidual needs, vis­i­Babble can be set to encourage dual-​​syllabic sounds, multi-​​syllabic sounds, consonant-​​like sounds, or upward pitch sounds that pro­mote diverse tonal expres­sion. To keep par­ents involved in their child’s devel­op­ment, vis­i­Babble records the progress and sophis­ti­ca­tion of bab­bling, in the con­text of pre­ci­sion, range, and com­plexity of artic­u­la­tion. Level of dif­fi­culty can be increased as the user progresses.

The under­lying research for vis­i­Babble was funded by a series of NIH grants awarded to Dr. Fell from 2002 to present date. She is cur­rently devel­oping a range of vis­i­Babble pro­to­types, including a crib toy and a clin­ical ver­sion that runs on a therapist’s computer.

Throughout visiBabble’s devel­op­ment, Dr. Fell has worked closely with sci­en­tists at Speech Tech­nology and Applied Research Corp. (STAR), a Bed­ford, Massachusetts-​​based firm and Dr. Cyn­thia Cress, a Uni­ver­sity of Nebraska, Lin­coln pro­fessor who cur­rently super­vises vis­i­Babble field-​​testing involving chil­dren with disabilities.

About North­eastern: Founded in 1898, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity is a pri­vate research uni­ver­sity located in the heart of Boston. North­eastern is a leader in inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research, urban engage­ment, and the inte­gra­tion of class­room learning with real-​​world expe­ri­ence. The university’s dis­tinc­tive coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion pro­gram, where stu­dents alter­nate semes­ters of full-​​time study with semes­ters of paid work in fields rel­e­vant to their pro­fes­sional inter­ests and major, is one of the largest and most inno­v­a­tive in the world. The Uni­ver­sity offers a com­pre­hen­sive range of under­grad­uate and grad­uate pro­grams leading to degrees through the doc­torate in six under­grad­uate col­leges, eight grad­uate schools, and two part-​​time divi­sions. For more infor­ma­tion, please visit www​.north​eastern​.edu.