Category: Healthcare, Education, Assistive Technology,
Organization name: Smartstones Inc.
Launched Date: 2015-10-01
Who has created it: Smartstones, Inc
Problem statement and how the Accessible Innovation solves the problem.
More than 7.5 million Americans have trouble using their voice, and over 3.5 million Americans have some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Many other conditions affect verbal communication, including ALS, stroke, aphasias, and other neurological and muscular conditions. Many of these individuals, while cognitively competent, are unable to communicate effectively. :prose allows individuals to create a library of gesture-driven phrases, based on the user's competence level. Gestures range from a simple taps and swipes to more complex zig-zags and geometric shapes. To speak, gestures can be performed within :prose itself on an iOS device, on our stone-shaped hardware device, Smartstones® Touch™, and on our Apple Watch app. This solution offers practical, flexible communication assistance for individuals who need it at home, at work, and on the go.
Tell us who is the target audience and how the accessible innovation will benefit them. Please specify the different target audiences groups and provide numbers and statistics of your current clients as well as what is the potential number of people that the innovation can impact and empower:
People with conditions which affect verbal communication will benefit most from access to quick, easy speech software. From basic communication such as calling for help or expressing basic needs, to emotional communication between loved ones and family members, :prose™ is incredibly versatile. It has also been used very successfully as a teaching tool, helping students express themselves and feel the benefits of successful verbal communication. However, :prose's biggest strength is its flexibility. There is a broad spectrum of needs and competencies amongst the nearly 12 million Americans with communication challenges. :prose grows with the user, and doesn't get in the way with complex menus and picture based interfaces like existing AAC apps.
How is the accessible innovative solution different from current practices or ways of solving the problem?
Most currently available AAC solutions are either clunky, complex, or both. Pictorial AAC systems typically require users to learn to navigate complex menus and interfaces, which make learning to use the system a time consuming chore. In contrast, :prose is lightweight and dead simple, making it easy and fun, and incredibly accessible to a wide range of people. The user decides how many phrases they want to use, and what they want to say. As needs change, phrases can be changed quickly and easily. In addition, existing AAC hardware devices are large and clunky, whereas our hardware solution, Smartstones® Touch™, is small, ergonomic, and doesn't steal attention away from social interaction with a screen to look at.
How is the accessible innovative solution new, different or unique in terms of the technology or implementation?
:prose™ is the first AAC app to use touch gestures to trigger speech, instead of text, pictorial, or symbolic buttons. It is also the first to feature remote messaging functionality, to allow users to continue the communication experience over a distance seamlessly. The Touch™ uses state of the art sensors for touch and motion detection, Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, and wireless inductive charging, in a small, water and shock resistant unit, to facilitate reliable, convenient communication no matter where the user goes.
How do you get the innovative solution to reach the target audience? Please elaborate on the your go to market strategy and which geographies do you currently work in and what are your future plans for marketing your innovation.
By working with various organizations, we are reaching thousands of families in the Central Coast region of California, a process which can be repeated hundreds of times with similar organizations across the country. We are already working with a few special education teachers, including one who has already run a pilot program in his classroom.
We hope to continue engaging directly with teachers, who will serve as ambassadors not only to help promote :prose in their schools and districts, but also to provide feedback for us to continue to improve :prose as we learn more. We also plan to collaborate with hospitals, care facilities, and other organizations, to provide access to :prose at the point of diagnosis. :prose™ is available on the App Store internationally, and includes over 40 language dialects.
What is the potential impact of the innovative solution on the lives of the target audience? Please elaborate by providing statistics of the current impact and the potential impact.
:prose has the potential to impact a wide variety of people, providing simple, effective verbal communication to those with communication challenges. For students with autism especially, the benefits of :prose in the classroom include increased sociality, decreased frustration and fatigue, and decreased need for individual assistance. One of the major sources of frustration for kids with ASD is the inability to express themselves, and :prose provides a solution through its simple, natural interface, and built-in adaptability. For use at home, in the community, and in post-secondary education or careers, benefits include a better sense of cohesiveness, decreased feelings of isolation, and a greater sense of independence.
Stories of how the Innovation has touched lives.
From Patrick Myers, a Special Education teacher who piloted :prose in his classroom: "Through using the program for the past 6 weeks, I have observed several students decreasing inappropriate behaviors due to increased communication capabilities. This is in part because of the intuitive, ubiquitous nature of the program that allows students almost “effortless” opportunities to communicate. For this population of students with severe characteristics they often tire and show signs of fatigue when using other communication programs, such as PECS (Picture exchange) matching tasks and TouchChat’s complex programs. Since Smartstones not only uses simplified gestural components to expressively communicate (something that is also at the core of communication), it is fully customizable to each student’s skill level and preference of the gesture that they’d like to communicate . The ease of use with Smartstones :prose’s gestural features allows me to enhance students’ educational environments. I can add vocabulary and assess how well my students understand different concepts. I truly would not have the opportunity to do this without Smartstones. Smartstones is truly one of a kind. I have never used a program with my students that has been as effective in such a short amount of time. Thank you for allowing me to be one of the educators able to pilot this program. I am very thankful and so are the wonderful students I serve. Specifically, my students have seemed much more at ease now that they have the opportunity to communicate."