ASU students win signal processing application contest

May 27, 2014

With a mission of improving therapy for people with communication disorders in underserved communities, three Arizona State University students from different disciplines worked together to develop Speaklear, a telemedicine device designed to allow speech-language pathologists (SLPs) to treat patients with communication disorders remotely, allowing for widespread, worldwide impact of highly skilled assessment.

Their innovation was selected as the winner of the signal processing application contest, hosted by the Acoustical Society of America, and subsequently as a finalist for the sixth annual Wireless Innovation Project Competition, sponsored by the Vodafone Americas Foundation (WIP). WIP offers applicants the opportunity to win a total prize fund of $600,000 for innovative mobile solutions that have potential to solve critical global issues. students standing next to project display Download Full Image

Taking an interdisciplinary approach to solve a world-wide problem

According to the World Health Organization, dysarthria, a motor speech disorder, affects approximately 46 million people worldwide, three million of whom live in the United States. Dysarthria is a condition that occurs when the muscles of the mouth, face and respiratory system fail to move or become weak after a stroke or brain injury. Symptoms may include slurred speech, hoarseness and a weak voice.

Renee Utianski, a doctoral student in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science in the College of Health Solutions, has worked with speech-language patients for years, and says she thought of the idea for the tool after seeing a gap in care in rural areas with limited access.

“It can be difficult for people to access treatment from trained speech-language pathologists, especially in communities outside of metropolitan areas, leaving their disorder untreated,” Utianski said. “It can be a real quality of life issue.”

With the help of her mentor, Julie Liss, Utianski recruited and partnered with Steven Sandoval, an engineering student in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, and Nicole Lehrer in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering in developing the device.

“Our team was awesome,” Utianski said. “Steven has a solid engineering background and was able to translate what I had in my head of what an SLP would find helpful and apply it to the application. His technical skills and ingenuity blew me away.”

Lehrer, a Media Arts and Sciences doctoral student, is part of a team developing a home-based stroke rehabilitation system.

“Nicole’s talents are multi-faceted,” Utianski said. “In addition to her degrees in biomedical engineering and painting, she is part of a team of students developing a home-based stroke rehabilitation system. Her background complemented our efforts beautifully.”

A health solution for underserved communities

Speaklear works like any other application on smartphones or tablets. After it records speech samples, it provides a variety of calculations, both novel and traditional, to assess speech production. This process helps the SLP pinpoint the areas which are most problematic.

A traditional in-office therapy session draws upon the SLP’s training just as much as it does their perceptual experience to hone in on problem areas, allowing them to cater therapy to meet the needs of the patient. In order to replicate those instincts, the Speaklear team worked with 25 SLPs and audiologists around Phoenix with at least 20 years of experience in the field to develop the traditional portion of the calculation. Utianski says the group was pleased to discover that not only were the experts willing to participate in the development of Speaklear, but most were anxious to start using it.

“The SLPs who helped us develop the tool were excited about the possibility of using Speaklear in their practice,” she said. “They see this as a partial solution to the longstanding shortage of SLPs, particularly in rural areas.”

The students’ Speaklear device won first place at the Acoustical Society of America conference earlier this year. The winners of the Wireless Innovation Project Competition will be announced at the end of this month.

“The best part, for me, was working with a diverse, passionate team who brought so much talent to the table,” Utianski said. “It’s amazing what a small group of dedicated people can do in making a big impact on the lives of others.”

The Speaklear team consists of:

Rene Utianski, Department of Speech and Hearing Science

Steven Sandoval, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering (ECEE)

Nicole Lehrer, School of Arts, Media and Engineering

Visar Berisha, faculty mentor, ECEE, Sensor, Signal and Information Processing Center

Julie Liss, faculty mentor, Department of Speech and Hearing Science

ASU Art Museum receives Warhol works to be displayed summer 2014

May 27, 2014

The Arizona State University Art Museum is pleased to announce that it is the recipient of six new works by artist Andy Warhol, a gift from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. These original Warhol screenprints will be on view in the lobby of the ASU Art Museum at Mill Avenue and 10th Street in Tempe this summer, beginning May 27.

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was established after Warhol’s death in 1987, and in accordance with Warhol’s will, it has given prints to many institutions across the country to ensure “that the many facets of Warhol’s complex oeuvre are both widely accessible and properly cared for.” In 2008, the ASU Art Museum received 155 photographs by Andy Warhol from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, part of the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program, which donated over 28,500 photographs to educational institutions across the United States. Andy Warhol, Reigning Queens (Queen Beatrix), 1985. Screenprint on Lenox museum Download Full Image

“That the Warhol Foundation recognizes the value of university and college art museums like ours is both a tremendous honor and a reflection on the foundation’s thoughtful work,” says ASU Art Museum director, Gordon Knox. “We are overjoyed to be the recipient of these prints and to share and explore Warhol’s work with our university audience and the Phoenix community.”

The gifted prints themselves are rare examples of works that Warhol did not necessarily intend to share with the public.

“In the development of an image toward printing a uniform edition, Warhol would experiment with both color and compositional elements, creating many variations of prints outside the final, editioned image,” says Jean Makin, ASU Art Museum print collection manager and curator. “These ‘outside edition’ prints were often not signed. Warhol gave some away to friends or clients, but he kept most of them.

“This addition to the ASU Art Museum’s print holdings only further strengthens the museum’s ability to be a valuable resource to students, professors and scholars,” Makin added. “Viewing unique works like these screenprints is an educational experience that brings a physical reality to study and research.”

Juno Schaser,
Public Relations | ASU Art Museum

Deborah Sussman

Communications and media specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts