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October 30, 2002

Teaching the deaf to speak

From: News 8 Austin, TX
Oct. 30, 2002

By: Ivanhoe Broadcast News

According to Oregon Health and Science University, thousands of deaf children receive cochlear implants each year. These are electronic devices that help them hear.

However, with those devices in place, they also need help learning to talk. Researchers say children with implants need deliberate practice listening to and producing language because they do not overhear as much language as their hearing peers.

Deaf students build communication and articulation skills through conversations with a computer-animated talking head. Baldi was created at the Perceptual Science Laboratory at The University of California, Santa Cruz.

Baldi recognizes commands punched into a keyboard and then "says" them aloud. He is anatomically correct and trained on speech articulation data. He can be aligned with synthetic or natural speech. This provides students with both visual and auditory speech during a lesson.

Baldi's facial expressions can change, students can see inside his mouth when he is talking, and his color can change. Baldi teaches nearly 400 vocabulary and grammar lessons, but the program has limitations. Baldi can't tell the children if they're pronouncing words correctly.

Educators at the Tucker-Maxon Oral School in Oregon are currently field-testing the software in 15 schools for the deaf in the United States and Canada.

You don't have to pay for this software to use at home or school. Parents and educators can download the program at . Baldi is just one of the animated agents supported by the Center for Spoken Language Understanding Speech Toolkit, provided by the OGI School of Science and Engineering at Oregon Health and Science University.

The Speech Toolkit gives Baldi its voice and capacity to listen and respond. CSLU licenses the software for commercial use. The software is made available as a free download for educational, research, personal or evaluation purposes.

Speech technology could someday be used to help illiterate people learn to read, to help non-native speakers learn English, and to give autistic people more ways to communicate.

For more information More Information

Pamela Connors, Director
International Center for Technology in Oral Education
Tucker-Maxon Oral School
2860 S.E. Holgate Boulevard
Portland, OR 97202-3697
(503) 235-6551

Copyright ©2002TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin