Holodeck-Type Technology to Help Speech Therapists

By Michelle
November 8, 2006 - 6:43 PM

Stacy Williams, an assistant professor of communication sciences at Case Western Reserve University, is using a holodeck-type environment to help speech therapy patients practice their skills.

"We're trying to find out where...breakdown occurs and how we can help," Williams told The Cleveland Plain Dealer, noting that many patients who are making progress with their therapists have trouble once they try to interact with other people in their daily lives. The virtual reality scenarios enable patients to practice in a fast food restaurant environment and others, all while at the Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center.

Williams puts together scenarios in a curtained-off area and uses a touch-screen to control virtual employees at the counter of a McDonald's restaurant. Distractions like ringing cell phones can be added to the scripts, projected on 8-by-10-foot screens.

In one scenario, a man's credit card has been rejected and he must argue that it is a company card in order to be rewarded with burgers. Later settings may include situations such as a stutterer faced with laughter or taunts. Williams would also like to use props such as scaled-down cars for a drive-thru simulation.

The technology can be used to train therapists as well, Williams pointed out, programming a virtual character from case histories or a virtual class of students. Williams is working with VirTra Systems, whose virtual reality simulations developed for military training have been adapted for use by speech therapists.

The original article is here.

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