A team of French researchers has developed a specialized ultrasound technique to allow people to visualize the shape of the tongue during speech. This “visual biofeedback” system could help with speech therapy.
At present, speech therapists will listen to someone’s pronunciation, and use diagrams to help explain how to position the tongue in the mouth to form specific sounds. How easily someone can put a speech therapist’s advice into practice depends on how easily they can understand the instructions and apply them to their own speech.
For something like positioning the tongue in the mouth, it can be difficult to follow advice when you can’t see what you nor your therapist are doing. This new device allows patients to see their tongue position in relation to their mouth and throat, in real time. The idea is to allow people to correct pronunciation problems faster and provide a reference point for speech therapists to help guide patients toward correct pronunciation.
The technique involves placing an ultrasound probe, similar to probes used by doctors to view the heart, under the jaw. The system then analyzes the movements of the tongue to create an “articulatory talking head,” which provides a graphical representation on the screen of the face, lips, tongue, palette, and teeth.
So far, the team has tested the system in the laboratory using healthy speakers. However, they have now begun a clinical trial for patients who have undergone tongue surgery. Other applications include helping people to learn a second language.
See a video of the system here:
Study in journal Speech Communication: Automatic animation of an articulatory tongue model from ultrasound images of the vocal tract…