Watch: Olly Speaks – a new device for children with speech and language delays
A personal experience led an engineer and researcher to develop devices to help children who have trouble expressing themselves with or without language. Together with other researchers at Malta University, he came up with the idea of Olly Speaks, for use by Speech Language Pathologists during therapy sessions.
Olly Speaks is a device in the form of a penguin designed by Maltese researchers to help children aged between three and six years who have difficulty expressing themselves and using language. The engineer, Dr Philip Farrugia explained how the device Olly Speaks arose from his own personal experience.
“Five years ago, my daughter was diagnosed with “expressive language delay” and as an engineer and researcher I wanted to help develop a something innovative. So I brought together a team of researchers from the University along with post graduate students and we also have a digital gaming company and together we started to develop this product. ‘
Dr Farrugia explained that Olly Speaks is used during language therapy for children. He said that from research conducted he noticed that children were more focused on exercises given by the Speech Language Pathologists when this device was used in their therapy. He explained that exercises and games on “Olly Speaks” are in Maltese and English and include words that children use in everyday life, inter alia names of food and animals.
Through this device children can undergo therapy from home.
“In addition to the device that you see behind me, we have created a digital platform through which the Speech Language Pathologists can follow their progress from one session to another – both in the clinic and when children take the device home to use with their parents. ”
Engineer Emanuel Balzan explained that Olly Speaks is made from different materials and is interactive. The penguin carries a haversack on his back and his eyes are on the screen.
“We use them to show the different emotions of Olly Speaks to the children. The device has two microphones, speakers, a large screen where the main activity is carried out, and a backpack which is the most important part of Olly Speaks because children are encouraged to complete the activity given to them by the Speech Language Pathologist ”
Olly Speaks is still at the research stage. Dr Farrugia said that with more funding, researchers want the device to be available on the international market.
The Speechie project is funded by the Malta Council for Science and Technology – MCST.