Dominic Massaro, research professor of psychology, has created an iPhone application for Baldi®, the computer-animated "talking head" he developed to help people acquire spoken-language skills, including the deaf and hearing-impaired.
Baldi® has been around for several decades. The product of Massaro's research, he provides realistic visible speech that is almost as accurate as a natural speaker. He has tutored children, served as a language teacher for autistic kids, and helped children and adults acquire new languages.
"As computing technology has evolved, Baldi's home has moved from large, expensive computers to run-of-the-mill desktops, and now the iPhone," said Massaro. "He can recite Web pages, RSS feeds, books and articles, and personal text files."
Users control Baldi®'s rate of speaking, facial look, and emotion, and no Internet connection is necessary, because the new iPhone application provides a continuously available platform.
By providing "visual speech cues," Baldi® makes messages more understandable for the deaf and hearing impaired, as well as "all of us in difficult hearing places, like parties and crowds," said Massaro.
Massaro has also developed iGlasses, which incorporate the same visual speech cues that are used on the iPhone. Designed to improve speech comprehension in face-to-face communication, iGlasses convert audible speech to visual cues that only the wearer will see in his or her peripheral vision. The microphones, color light-emitting diodes, and supporting electronics will be integrated into eyeglass frames, creating an affordable supplement that will allow wearers to communicate more easily in face-to-face and classroom situations.