Group leads way in help­ing peo­ple to com­mu­ni­cate

The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition) - - NEWS - Morag Han­nah Morag works on the Dundee Univer­sity web team.

The Aug­men­ta­tive and Al­ter­na­tive Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Re­search Group at Com­put­ing in the School of Sci­ence and En­gi­neer­ing at Dundee Univer­sity is the world leader in de­vel­op­ing in­tel­li­gent and mul­ti­modal tech­nolo­gies.

The team works with the fore­most com­pa­nies in the field to sup­port and en­hance in­ter­ac­tion for in­di­vid­u­als with a va­ri­ety of com­mu­ni­ca­tion im­pair­ments across the life­span.

Their work in­cludes a £1 mil­lion re­search project that aims to dra­mat­i­cally change the way peo­ple with no speech and com­plex dis­abil­i­ties can con­verse with oth­ers. The project also in­volves Cam­bridge Univer­sity.

Com­puter-based sys­tems – called voice out­put com­mu­ni­ca­tion aids (Vo­cas) – use word pre­dic­tion to speed up typ­ing, a fea­ture sim­i­lar to that com­monly found on mo­bile phones or tablets for tex­ting and email­ing.

How­ever, for those with com­plex dis­abil­i­ties, like Pro­fes­sor Stephen Hawk­ing, us­ing typ­ing to com­mu­ni­cate can still be ex­tremely slow. With as lit­tle as two words per minute gen­er­ated, face-to-face con­ver­sa­tion can be very dif­fi­cult.

Even with an av­er­age com­put­eraided com­mu­ni­ca­tion rate of about 15 words per minute, con­ver­sa­tions do not com­pare to the speak­ing rate – 10 times faster – of peo­ple with­out a com­mu­ni­ca­tion im­pair­ment.

It is es­ti­mated that more than a quar­ter of a mil­lion peo­ple in the UK alone are at risk of iso­la­tion be­cause they are un­able to speak and are in need of some form of aug­men­ta­tive or al­ter­na­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion to sup­port them with a se­vere com­mu­ni­ca­tion dif­fi­culty.

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