New Belgian video game aims to help children who stutter

New Belgian video game aims to help children who stutter
Credit: Say It Labs

A new video game by Belgian-American start-up Say It Labs aims to teach children with a stutter various techniques to improve their speech. 

Launched on Friday to coincide with International Stuttering Awareness Day, Fluency Friends is currently only available in America but will reach the Flemish market soon. 

The game uses voice recognition to control the animal characters on screen as they pass through different islands, each representing a therapy technique that improves stuttering. For instance, on "Zen Island" players learn techniques to control their vocal cords.

Other islands deal with techniques centred around easy phonation, slowness, pitch, chunking and mindfulness exercises. 

"Your voice is the joystick," Say It Labs explains. "Use your voice to climb a beanstalk, swim with dolphins, or jump on crocodiles. Your voice will experience something fantastic as it is used to discover a whole world, manoeuvre around obstacles or collect secret objects."

The game provides immediate feedback to the players, with results available to be sent to their doctor. "Speech and language pathologists have access to their client profiles from their own Fluency Friends login page which provides objective information about the types of motor activities that are being mastered, which ones are challenging, and direction on how to steer subsequent sessions," the creators explain.

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While the game is primarily aimed at children aged between 5 and 15, the company says it can be used by anyone who stutters. "Even though the graphics are more aimed at children, the game itself works for everyone over 5 years. The exercises and techniques taught in the game work for everyone that stutters."

Born in February 2019, Leuven-based Say It Labs calls itself a "spin-off from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Interuniversity Microelectronics Center."

The company aims to develop artificial intelligence-based speech recognition technology designed to support people with speech disabilities. This is achieved through combining state-of-the-art technology with best practices in speech therapy to create video games to motivate and improve independent practice.

The game will officially launch at 5:00 PM Belgium time.

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