According to The Stuttering Foundation, more than 70 million people worldwide are affected by stuttering. The speech disorder not only affects and interrupts the communication experience but could oftentimes lead children and adults to feel anxious in public settings.
Takalam, a Jordanian-based startup and MIT Arab Startup Competition Finalist, is setting out to find solutions for stutterers and speech disorders by using Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and software development.
Started in May 2018 and set to launch on 1st December 2019, Takalam has developed a mobile app and a linked device made up of a specialized hardware that works through each patient’s speech recognition, and in turn provides them with feedback and evaluations based on their speech fluency.
Stuttering Therapy and Digitization
So how does Takalam really work to improve speech fluency? Firstly, the device consists of an ear piece and microphone that picks up the sound and vocal vibrations of the stutterer and sends it back in real time through a process called “choral effect.” Simply put, choral effect works by altering and improving the speech accordingly, and finally sends it back through the device in real-time to the stutterer. This enables stutterers to hear the right sounds as they talk; and through more and more practice, they’re able to improve their speech fluency.
Takalam not only helps patients but also helps speech therapists as well. In fact, Takalam is the first device in the Arab world to make use of Stuttering Severity Instrument (SSI) that provides speech therapists with accurate assessments. Instead of the old traditional pen to paper evaluations, therapists will be able to have access to evaluations of each and every patient and see how far they are improving through Takalam’s hardware results. In other words, Takalam helps mimic, simplify, and complement each speech therapist’s efforts.
Artificial Intelligence for Speech Therapy
A great characteristic of AI is machine learning where Takalam will pick up the patient’s daily improvements and guide them further to speaking fluently. In other words, “Takalam learns from you and your improvements and works accordingly based on that,” said Abdallah Al-Faris, the Co-Founder at Takalam. Through this, patients will be able to monitor their progress and improve whenever they speak. With Takalam, stutterers can practice and work on their speech everyday instead of having to wait for their next appointment to make a visit to their therapist.
Young Jordanian talent is on the rise
Entrepreneurship is a growing scene in Jordan. The Takalam team is made up of five partners: four graduates and their professor from the University of Petra that are part of their university’s business incubator SIQ. The team is also a part Umniah’s startup incubator, The Tank, where they benefited with support on business development, legal and financial advice, workshops, and networking and investment opportunities through Umniah’s partners in Jordan and the region. They were also given the opportunity to be part of the Mobile World Congress (MWC), where they were able to showcase to visitors the efficiency and benefits of their product.
Abdallah Al-Faris said, “While Takalam has succeeded in being a finalist at the MIT Arab Startup Competition and a part of Umniah’s incubation, at the end it’s all about the team members – a team with the same goal is an essential part to every startup’s success.”
Takalam started upon seeing a need that people wanted to improve in their country. Although young, the startup is on a path to success to helping stutterers’ voices be heard.