An Israeli mobile app that uses the world’s first stuttering detection algorithm to help stutterers overcome their condition comes 3,500 years too late for the most famous Jewish stutterer, Moses, but not a moment too soon for present day sufferers of the condition.
NiNiSpeech is a mobile health solution that helps people who stutter (PWS) maintain fluent speech, and allows speech-language pathologists (SLP) to monitor their clients’ fluency in everyday settings, Yair Shapira, founder & CEO of NiNiSpeech, told ISRAEL21c.
The mobile solution, which will cost $50 to $100 monthly, provides the stutterer with immediate feedback on speech fluency by means of a buzz or vibration. This gives the stutterer a chance to monitor performance, improve fluency, achieve speech goals and gain rewards. The second stage of the solution, which is unique in the field, measures stuttering.
“When you’re on a diet, you weigh yourself. When you run or do fitness, you have a stopwatch so you know how well you’re doing, whether you’re progressing or not. In speech there’s no correlation between subjective experience of the stutterer and his real stutter,” explained Shapira.
“So, a stutterer can work for one to three months and still won’t know if he progressed. This is a system that will let him know.”
In addition, “NiNiSpeech can show the therapist what’s going on outside the clinic and it changes the way that the person who stutters can see his stutter,” added Shapira. “It can truly revolutionize the whole industry of stuttering treatment.”
Shapira, a veteran of the Israeli high-tech field, recently left his executive position at DiViNetworks, and started NiNiSpeech together with Yoav Medan, who led IBM’s speech processing unit and served as CTO of InSightec, and Ofer Amir, who heads Tel Aviv University School of Communication Disorders.
He did so after years in which he watched his 17-year-old son, Niv, try new therapies and treatments for his stammer, to no avail. NiNiSpeech is named for Niv, whose stutter was especially prominent when he tried to say his name, “Ni-Ni-Niv.”
The Haifa-based startup, launched in January, has already picked up several innovation awards and is now heading to clinical trials in the United States, China, Portugal and Israel.
The Chinese trials could be the most meaningful, said Shapira. “In China, it is considered a family shame if you stutter. And there are very few speech therapists in China,” he told Israel21c.
Assuming the trials are successful, the NiNiSpeech application should be on the market by summer.