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New app helps parents communicate better with kids

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London: A new smartphone app that can help parents communicate better with their tots by offering them cues in real time has been developed.

The smartphone-based system listens to and analyses the conversation between parents and their child. It then gives parents clinically relevant nudges to guide the interaction and improve the child’s language skills.

The system, called TalkBetter, was designed by computer scientists at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon, South Korea, working with speech-language pathologists at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.


Parents wear a Bluetooth earpiece and microphone while the child just wears a microphone, all connected to a smartphone.

Software on the phone examines the exchanges between the two, watching out for when the parent speaks too fast, doesn’t give their child enough time to respond, or ignores speech from the child. If any of these things happen, it alerts the parent via the earpiece.

Feedback from some of the 13 parents that took part in an early trial of the system in Seoul was enthusiastic, ‘New Scientist’ reported.

Lead researcher Inseok Hwang at KAIST already has many other ideas for the system.

“We developed a preliminary app which targets and monitors group discussion, trying to give real-time feedback,” he said.

“If one person dominates the conversation, for instance, then the smartphone might give a gentle reminder to let others speak,” he added.

The system will be presented at a computer conference in Baltimore, Maryland, this month.