Belfast start-up Liopa gets license to read lips in English hospital

Belfast-based lip-reading medtech Liopa has secured a license for use across inpatient units at the Royal Preston Hospital in England.

The Invest NI-backed start-up has developed AI-powered lip-reading technologies that aim to help voice-impaired patients to communicate with healthcare workers and family.

Users can move their lips to talk in front of a smartphone camera and Liopa’s Sravi app will decipher speech based on the patient’s lip movements and read it out.

The technology is agnostic to audio noise and, when combined with audio speech recognition, will improve accuracy of the overall system.

It is aimed at ICU and critical care patients who have lost the ability to speak for reasons such as tracheostomies, strokes, paralysis, or even Covid-19 complications.

“Essentially the technology brings a voice to the voiceless by using visual speech recognition and AI technology to support patients,” Liopa co-founder and CTO Fabian Campbell-West said.

“This improves communication between patients, families and healthcare staff, which is so important for patient care and wellbeing.”

Liopa, a spin-out from Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and its Centre for Security Technologies, received a “significant investment” from the UK government’s Future Fund last year for R&D.

It has also been supported by QUB’s commercialisation arm, QUBIS, as well as Invest NI’s Access to Finance funds, Techstart NI and Co-Fund II, which is managed by Clarendon Fund Managers.

Eyes on new sectors

Following last year’s funding, Liopa said it would use it to bring its two products to the market: Sravi and LipRead. LipRead is a platform that leverages automated lip-reading to increase the accuracy of video and media transcriptions.

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In 2018, Liopa raised $1m in funding led by Techstart NI and QUBIS to commercialise its LipRead platform for a global audience.

“Moving forward, we want to help people with various medical conditions including stroke, trauma and paralysis and hope to see Sravi implemented in more hospitals across the UK and beyond,” Campbell-West said.

“We’re also excited to see where Sravi will take us, with plans to move into new sectors including automotive, digital healthcare, finance and security markets.”

Dr Vicky Kell, Invest NI director of innovation, research and development, said that Liopa has shown how R&D investment can make a company more competitive and that Invest NI is working with Liopa as it invests in future growth plans.

“Our eastern regional team is working closely with the company to provide expert advice, marketing intelligence and support the implementation of a strategic marketing plan to develop its presence in new markets and sectors.”

Liopa has also been awarded Invest NI’s Gold Level Innovator Certificate for its innovations in the automated lip-reading tech space.

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