PLan-V: A Speech and Language Therapy Platform with Virtual Agent

Start Date: 28/07/2020
End Date: 27/01/2023
Funding: Operational Programme «Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship» 2014-2020
Project Leader: Katsouros Vassilis

The proposed project, “A Speech and language Therapy Platform with Virtual Agent” (PLan-V), aims at developing an integrated, technologically assisted, speech/language intervention platform for people with chronic neurogenic communication disorders. Acquired speech and language disorders are increasingly relevant for a significant percentage of the population, given the current aging rate, and they have a direct and severe effect on quality of life because they limit daily communication. The effective support of this population requires individualized, systematic and regular intervention by speech/language therapists. Treatment outcomes are directly and positively correlated with the quality and frequency of clinical services. The proposed project, “A Speech and language Therapy Platform with Virtual Agent” (PLan-V), aims at developing an integrated, technologically assisted, speech/language intervention platform for people with chronic neurogenic communication disorders. Acquired speech and language disorders are increasingly relevant for a significant percentage of the population, given the current aging rate, and they have a direct and severe effect on quality of life because they limit daily communication. The effective support of this population requires individualized, systematic and regular intervention by speech/language therapists. Treatment outcomes are directly and positively correlated with the quality and frequency of clinical services.

The proposed project aims at developing a novel system that can support the self-management of chronic patients with speech and language disorders. The inadequate communication skills of these patients deeply affect their day-to-day life and the limited access to free, long-term speech and language therapy services hinders their effective and efficient rehabilitation. The proposed system will allow patients to practice wherever and whenever they wish, without the physical presence of a clinician, via the assistance of a digital character/virtual speech and language therapist (Avatar). At the same time, the proposed platform will constitute a valuable clinical tool that will assist clinicians with the time consuming process of routine patient assessment and evaluation, and the development and execution of individualized intervention programs that will complement face-to-face clinical sessions.

The implementation of the above goals requires the cooperation of three research institutions and two private companies on activities of industrial research and experimental development, in order to investigate, revise and improve current practices, and apply them to construct:
a) original speech/language therapy material, well grounded on contemporary, evidence-based intervention practices, that can be used for the support of patients with neurogenic speech and language disorders of various types and different severity levels,
β) a novel system of technologically assisted, speech/language intervention via a virtual therapist, that will guide the patient during the virtual clinical sessions by providing the directions and feedback required by each therapy task via a natural and friendly interface,
c) an automated system for the evaluation of the severity of the speech and language deficits that will allow for the comprehensive assessment of the intervention progress, via novel machine learning techniques,
d) a novel management system, that will support speech/language therapists in the clinical practice, by allowing them to develop individualized treatment plans and assess the progress of the intervention without their physical presence.

These products will be integrated in a comprehensive platform, available via network for use with a computer, as well as a smartphone application.