Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.
JOSH ANDERSON: Hello and welcome to your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs. I’m your host, Josh Anderson, with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome to episode 397 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on January 4, 2019.
On today’s show, we are very excited to have Carlos Pereira cofounder and CEO of Livox, a different kind of AAC app with some machine learning custom other really cool features. I think you folks will really enjoy the interview. I would like to start the show by taking a few minutes to thank each and everyone of you. Week in and week out because you tuned back in. Hopefully you have a couple of laughs, maybe learn something, and really go on this journey together and also kind of look back at the year in the past perk I would deftly say it’s been a pleasure and joy — I’ve probably said this more times than I should — to take the reins here at here at Assistive Technology Update and be able to step in the shoes of Wade Wingler who started the show and did it for 7 plus years. But to be able to take that over. I get to talk to some amazing folks. I talked to amazing people last year just in the few months that I got to take over this position and really learn what they are doing for individuals with disabilities all over the world. And that, I’m really looking forward to this next year and can get off today with Carlos and his interview. I really just enjoy this and I really hope you folks enjoy it as well, getting to talk to these people and understand their motivations and the different kinds of assistive technology that they are breaking out and the different ways that they can help those folks that we serve as well as ourselves, if you are a user of these kinds of things. So in the coming year, you can expect things to change by staying pretty much the same. We will try to keep the same format, keep the same kind of guests, and keep talking about what’s important and changing in the world of assistive technology and how that affects individuals with disabilities.
We are looking forward to, at the end of the month, going off to ATIA down in Orlando. Maybe it’s fitting that our interview today is based in Orlando. We will be there at ATIA attending different seminars, looking at all kinds of new stuff, and hopefully tracking some folks down and getting some interviews with them. That’ll be at the end of January. So if you are attending ATIA and would like to be a guest on this show, reach out to us on our listener line, or shoot us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe we can try to catch up and go ahead and get you on the show. Hopefully we can find some new things and get those. We also have our 400th episode coming up here towards the end of the month. we are looking forward to that and we’re going to have a special guest on and to the show a little bit differently that time just to talk about something important, really to all of us that work in this field and are affected by disability in one way or another. Let’s go ahead and get into our first interview of the new year.
Listeners, there is a lot of different AAC devices, apps out there, things to help folks with communication. But whenever we get to hear about a new one, we get really interested. So our guest today is Carlos Pereira from Livox. He’s here to talk about a new communication app and just talk about the way it works and everything. Carlos, welcome to the show.
CARLOS PEREIRA: Thank you so much for having me.
JOSH ANDERSON: We are excited to talk to you. Before we get into talking about Livox itself, tell our audience a little bit about yourself and your background.
CARLOS PEREIRA: Okay. I am from Brazil but I live in Orlando, Florida for the past three years now. I’m a father of a little girl. She is 11 years old. Her name is Clara. She has cerebral palsy through a medical mistake during my wife’s labor. So since the moment I found out about my daughter’s disability, empowering people with disabilities became a passion for me.
JOSH ANDERSON: It’s amazing how so many people in this kind of field really get into it by a personal story. I note that this kind of got you into the field. Where did the idea for Livox come up?
CARLOS PEREIRA: When I found out about my daughter’s situation, I started to do anything I could in order to help her to have a better life. For example, I saw stem cell treatments, and it costed something like $40,000. I only had three dollars. So I created a website called one dollar for one dream, and we raised all of the $40,000 through this website. My daughter was the first Brazilian to have the stem cell treatment for cerebral palsy. we event in all the news, the newspapers, TV stations because of that. Foreign investors came to me and said, we opened a rehab center in Europe. Do you think it would be a good idea to open a rehab center in Brazil? I said yes. You know what? My city is the best place for that. I convinced them and they sent a container with 2.5 million tons of medical equipment. I quit my job and started working only for people with disabilities. I had to hire speech therapists, physical therapists, all kinds of professionals. We started working only with people with disabilities perk I saw that my daughter was trying to communicate.
Then I decided to create something. Had no background in development for mobile devices, so I had to learn how to code. But since I was doing it for my daughter, I wanted to be the best one. We are talking here and it’s a podcast cost you guys can’t see me, but if you guys look for some photos of mine on the Internet, you’ll see that I have dark circles around my eyes because I was obsessed all the time, on the computer, late at night to code this program for my daughter. I guess we made it. We did a lot of progress, but I will let you ask the right questions so I can answer them.
JOSH ANDERSON: Sounds good. Livox is an augmentative communication app. Is that right?
CARLOS PEREIRA: Correct. It works on android tablets. We wanted to make it available first for android tablets because they are affordable. You can buy a $100 tablet on Amazon and it works on these devices as well. So you have many different sizes, 7 inches, 12 inches, and they are really affordable. Not only here in the US but in many different countries.
BRIAN NORTON: Very cool. There are all kinds of different AAC, and we’ve talked to a lot of different folks. Is Livox more picture-based, textbased, or just a little bit of each, more customizable for the user?
CARLOS PEREIRA: One think that’s really interesting about Livox is that we have a different interface depending on the disability. When you first create a user on Livox, even if you don’t know the perimeters, you know the person’s disability. So you can answer a few questions like, what is the disability? Autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, whatever? Does this person have any kind of repetitive movements? Does this person have any kind of visual impairment? If yes, how bad is that? So even blind people can use Livox. What are the motor skills of this person? Is it good? Is it bad? Do they need a switch? And after you answer a few questions, and if you select one option, Livox will set up all the perimeters for that particular disabled person. This is really interesting because Livox for person with autism will be different from the person with cerebral palsy or down syndrome and so on and so forth. So we have different interface depending on if a person can read, if they can’t read, if they can or can’t see, and so on and so forth.
BRIAN NORTON: It sounds like Livox can help anyone with their communication needs.
CARLOS PEREIRA: Exactly. We did this because, as I mentioned, I was the director of a rehab center, so we could test Livox with a wide range of disabilities. We could say, hey, wait a second, people with moderate impairments — like my daughter — they don’t touch on the tablet like we do. They touch with their whole hands, they dragged her fingers, they do involuntary touches. So when we first created Livox, it just didn’t work in the hands of people with moderate disabilities. So we accepted the challenge and we created an algorithm in Livox called intelligent touch. It works like this: if a person that has no disability touches the screen, Livox knows that this touch is fine because there is nothing to do with it; but if a person like my daughter touches it, hey, something is different. How many fingers are touching the screen? For how long? Was the area of the touch? Is the person dragging their fingers or are they doing involuntary touches? And that it corrects these imperfect touches. We could do this with a wide range of disabilities. Like people with autism, for example, they hate changes, so we had to create an algorithm. If you say the user has autism, Livox will prevent changes. But this is quite tricky because communication is supposed to be dynamic. How can you prevent changes and at the same time have dynamic conversations? We had to think about all these different situations.
BRIAN NORTON: It sounds like you took a lot of stuff in consideration. I love the different algorithms for involuntary movements and dragging and things like that. I know it’s a big challenge that we always run into, working with tablets with individuals with any kind of motor disability, just making sure that what they are going for is what they actually get. I know there is a lot of frustration for folks, if they know what they are trying to do but, of course, their body is not completely doing what they tablet. And then the device isn’t desponding, they’ll never use it. It’s great that you guys thought of it right off the bat.
CARLOS PEREIRA: Absolutely.
BRIAN NORTON: You said this works on all kinds of android tablets. How much does the app itself cost?
CARLOS PEREIRA: For families, it’s a flat fee of $250. Every year, we charge 20% for customer support. For institutions and hospitals or a school, we charge $25 per month per user. We have different things. If you are a speech therapist for a school, we have different features for you. For example, on a single tablets, if you have a clinic, you can have multiple users and Livox will be different for each of the users. And also for professionals can we have a lot of information online peer we have a portal called my.Livox.com where our users can go and see hey, let me evaluate the improvement of a user that is using Livox. Imagine if you are a teacher or a speech therapist and you have one particular user of Livox. When they start using Livox, you can go online and answer the evaluation. We evaluate the person with a disability in five different categories. We have an overall score. That say a particular user of Livox has a 60% score. Then you see, wait a second, why 60%? One hundred percent would be perfect. Why 60%? Then you would go and see, hey, the cognition of this user is only 20%. Let’s work a little bit more on cognition. And then you can see over time the improvement of our users by using Livox. This is very useful, especially for cities when they buy Livox. In Brazil and many other places, they purchase Livox and give it for free in schools. So they can see, are they kids really using the software? What are the things that they use it most for? Where are they using it? So we have a lot of information that we can provide for a mayor or someone like that if they wanted to see. Or maybe a director of the hospital wants to see the improvements of people with disabilities using Livox.
BRIAN NORTON: Very nice that you guys have that available for folks. Carlos, we talked a bit about your daughter and how she got you into this. Can you tell me a story of maybe some folks that were helped by Livox?
CARLOS PEREIRA: Absolutely. We have so many different stories peer we have over 25,000 users. Livox is available in 25 languages. I would love to tell you the story of all of them —
BRIAN NORTON: I wish we had time for that.
CARLOS PEREIRA: I will tell you an interesting story. If you guys go online on our YouTube channel, you will see a video of three users of Livox. The first one is my daughter; the second one is a guy with mouth cancer who lost his jaw and teeth and tongue, and he uses Livox for communication; the third one is a guy who has cerebral palsy, and he uses Livox with his toes. When you first see a person like him — unhappily, some folks don’t think that there is a person living inside that body. But by using Livox, he started to go out. I would like to have a beer. I would like to skydive. And then eventually he met a girl, they got engaged, and his first daughter was just born. He decided to name his daughter with the same name of my daughter, Clara, as a tribute to my daughter. He has a very severe cerebral palsy. There is no marriage without communication. Now he’s able to communicate to his wife and daughter through Livox. These kinds of stories inspire us a lot.
BRIAN NORTON: They definitely do. They definitely do. It’s amazing, I know I’ve worked with a lot of folks who really can’t communicate, and then they end up getting a device and finding a way. It just opens up such a world that we all take for granted.
CARLOS PEREIRA: Absolutely.
BRIAN NORTON: I don’t know if we should’ve started with this, but what did you do before you came into working with individuals with disabilities?
CARLOS PEREIRA: I was an electronics technician. I used to work for a pharmaceutical company in Brazil. But then when my daughter was born, I said I have to do something for her. I started only working for people with disabilities. That’s when I told you we opened a rehab center.
BRIAN NORTON: I’m sure we are all glad that you did move over to this field. Just from the little bit of time I’m going to talk to you, I don’t feel like you are someone who is done or satisfied. What does the future hold for Livox, and more important, for you?
CARLOS PEREIRA: That’s a very good question. We are right now taking some steps on things that we believe will help people with disabilities. For example, a couple of years ago, we got an investment from Google. That’s why I moved here to the US. We got this money from Google because Google invited us to go to their annual event called Google IO. It happens in San Francisco every year. They made a movie about our story, it was really cool. They said, we know that you are doing a great work with Livox, but what else are you doing? Then I told him one thing. I was reading an interview with Stephen Hawking when he was alive. He used to say that he was a very lonely person because people were not willing to wait until he could answer, because it takes a long time. We see him on TV, and it seems fast. It seems that he communicates fast through his alternative communication device, it’s not fast. It takes a long time either to initiate a conversation or to answer a question. I said to Google, we want to solve that using machine learning and natural language processing. We did that. We solved this in two ways.
First, by using machine learning, we help people with disabilities to initiate conversations faster. How does this work? Instead of showing dozens of items on the screen, Livox shows the previous usage of the user to try to predict what a person with a disability would like to say depending on time and location. For example, when my daughter wakes up, instead of showing 12 items on the screen, it shows only four items: good morning daddy, please change my diaper, I would like fried eggs and bread for breakfast. When she comes back from school, Livox knows that she was in school, and the first item it shows as I would like to say how was my day in school. Before she gets thirsty, Livox shows and add them to say I would like some water. It helps people with disabilities to initiate conversations faster and not to have to go through dozens of items just to say whatever they need to say at that particular time and location.
Another example I can give you. I live here in Orlando, and we have some people with disabilities using Livox. We have different Disney parks. If a child with disabilities goes to the Magic Kingdom, Livox automatically knows that she is in the Magic Kingdom and it shows the attractions for magic kingdom. If she goes to animal kingdom, the attractions are different so it shows the attractions for animal kingdom, and so on and so forth. It depends on time and location. This helps people with disabilities to initiate conversations faster.
But we also then wanted to answer questions faster. In order to do that, we use natural language processing. It works like this: you are familiar with hey Google or hey Siri? We use this in Livox, instead of saying hey Livox, we ask the Livox users to train Livox the name of the person with disabilities. My daughter’s name is Clara, so on her device, we trained Livox that her name is Clara. So every time I say Clara, Livox start listening just like hey Google or hey Siri. I can say something like, Clara, did you brush your teeth? Livox knows that this is a yes or no question and automatically shows a yes or no screen so she can say yes or no. Or I can say something like, Clara, how many spoons of sugar do you want in your coffee? Livox uses natural thing which processing to understand that the answer is a number, and then it brings the numbers so she can say I would like three spoons of sugar.
It’s really awesome. We are releasing new models every — I mean almost every month. For example, in her school, a teacher after reading the book can say Clara — Livox start listening — is this book about a dog, a cat, or a rabbit? Livox shows the items dogs, cats, and rabbit so she can answer. By the way, you don’t have to memorize these questions. For example, for a yes or no questions that we trained Livox with over 1.4 million yes or no questions. So you can say any combination of these questions and Livox will, in 95% of the situations, bring the correct screen to help with the person with disabilities say whatever they want to say. So we are really excited about this spirit we are investing a lot in these new models.
One thing that is really cool is you have to say the name of the person with disabilities, so you’re talking to them, not the machine. This helps people with no disabilities to engage in conversations with people with disabilities. By the way, this speeds up to litigation by a lot. We are investing even further on this new technology as of right now.
BRIAN NORTON: That’s great. You said two very important things: one, you are talking to the individual using their name, which then causes the device to start listening; but also like you said, it’s going to speed it so much. I don’t have to go through four different screens, especially if you ask me a question about something different, I don’t have to back out all the way out, go into a whole different screen and into another screen. But just to have those answers and those communication pieces pop right up, that’s a big game changer. That’s very cool.
CARLOS PEREIRA: We use machine learning so it’ll be different for every individual. For example, we were testing with our engineers if I would take my device and I would say, what do you want to have for lunch? Livox would bring Brazilian foods for lunch. But if you ask for an American user, what do you want for lunch? Livox will bring American foods.
BRIAN NORTON: That’s cool.
CARLOS PEREIRA: It’s really cool.
BRIAN NORTON: What else can Livox do?
CARLOS PEREIRA: One of the cool things about Livox is we are always trying to improve it and order for Livox to work in a wider range of disabilities. Many people were asking for me, hey, Carlos, my father had ALS so he can’t use his limbs particular possible to use Livox with his eyes? I said, no, you can’t unfortunately. But then I decided, hey, we’re going to do this. We made this work with the front facing camera of tablets. A device like this costs from $10,000-$17,000, and we made this work in a $100 tablet that you can buy on Amazon. Even people that can’t use their limbs, they can use Livox with their eyes. That’s one thing that I would like to stress to you guys is this is our commitment. [INAUDIBLE] who can’t communicate. These other devices are so expensive so we need to create something to enable them to communicate.
BRIAN NORTON: If our listeners want to find out more about you and Livox, where can they find the information?
CARLOS PEREIRA: They can go to our website, Livox.com.br, B as in Ball, and R as in Richard. they can select English and they will see a lot of information. Also they can look for Livox on YouTube or Facebook and they will see many things.
BRIAN NORTON: That sounds great. We will definitely put that in the show notes so folks can check it out. Carlos, thanks again for coming on the show today.
CARLOS PEREIRA: Thank you so much.
BRIAN ANDERSON: Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? If you do, call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Are you looking for a transcript or show notes? Head on over to our website at www.EasterSealsTech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. For more shows like this, plus so much more, head over to AccessibilityChannel.com. The opinions expressed by our guests are their own and may or may not reflect those of the INDATA Project, Easter Seals Crossroads, or any of our supporting partners. That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana. Thank you for listening, and we’ll see you next time.
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