Empathic helps everyone to understand how a non-verbal person is feeling. It uses AI to interpret short voice recordings of people who cannot use functional speech or most communication aids. This may be due to autism, Down’s syndrome, brain injury, learning disability, dementia or a range of other conditions.

People with complex needs may not have reliable facial expressions or body language due to the severity of their condition. When we don’t understand a person’s attempt to communicate it can lead to feelings of frustration, anger and isolation. This often contributes to low mood and frustration that may result in challenging behaviours such as aggression, self-harm and falls. There are also individuals who can communicate but experience episodes when they cannot express themselves in words; for example, when a person with autism experiences temporary sensory overload.

Many non-verbal people do not have the capacity to use sign language or standard assistive technologies. It is often the case that a primary carer or key worker is the only one who understands them. Empathic addresses this problem by enabling everyone to interpret up to 10 emotions; even if they have never met the non-verbal person before.

In 2019 we began working with families, healthcare, home care and educational service providers to gather audio data from non-verbal individuals in real world settings. We measured sound waves and identified the characteristics specific to 10 emotions. Our research supports existing academic findings that show consistency across languages; our tests include English, Portuguese and Turkish. We also found significant similarities across diverse conditions such as autism, dementia and brain injury.

Extensive testing shows that using Empathic can reduce frustration and enhance mood. For example, we asked care providers to share the app’s interpretations with the non-verbal person they were supporting. They usually said something like “I see you are getting frustrated, let’s do something else” or “It shows me that you are happy, we’ll keep playing this music.” Many of these testers told us that using Empathic helps to decrease frustration, improve mood and enhance interactions. Professional and family carers often notice a reduction in challenging behaviours. They believe this improves safety for the non-verbal person and for all those who provide their support.  Some users reported that the non-verbal person became more sociable and increased their efforts to vocalise; as one mother put it “when she realised we were listening, she tried to talk to us more often, in her own way”.

We have launched Empathic for healthcare and home care providers. This offers a multiuser dashboard, reports and real time updates that can be accessed on any smart device. We are also working on hands free options for use in smart homes and sensory rooms.


What people are saying about Empathic

  • In addition to potential threats, we have encountered AI applications and research that have aroused interest, enthusiasm and optimism. We originally viewed the detection of any emotional expression by AI with skepticism, but the project team learned about an application that appears to offer genuine benefits for a group of people that partly overlaps with the autistic spectrum: those with no spoken or written language.–European Council of Autistic People, Artificial Intelligence and the Rights of Autistic People (AIRA) Project

  • I have used many apps during my years of practice as an SLT. I found Empathic app very helpful clinically to understand my clients, a lot of who don’t have the power of oral communication. The app helped me to connect with my clients and also helped me understand the powerful emotions that they expressed. I strongly believe the app is a boon for any clinician and communication partner to improve communication.–Milind Sonawane, M.Sc. Sr. Speech Language Therapist, Children Disability Network Manager, Enable Ireland

  • Empathic, a one of a kind creation helps others understand our amazing daughter.–Sam Villena, Family Carer

  • The App has brought about greater insight in relation to the preferences of individuals & has allowed for the creation of a person centred, preference focused schedule. The quality of care & increased access to preferred activities has come about because of the App’s introduction with the benefits of same being felt immediately across a variety of service areas. The App is also very accessible for family members/staff using same with an intuitive & supportive setup, layout & design. … I  would highly recommend the App to anyone supporting individuals with reduced communication abilities.–SLT Department – Adult Intellectual Disability Service


Benefits of Empathic

Years of testing has shown that Empathic can:
• Improve the mood of the non-verbal person
• Reduce challenging behaviours
• Reduce injuries to staff and family members
• Lower the incidents of falls and self-harm
• Increase staff retention
• Enhance social engagement

Healthcare Professionals

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Family Carers

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The challenge

The inability to communicate can lead to low mood and frustration that may result in challenging behaviours such as aggression, self-harm and falls. When a non-verbal person uses their voice to communicate, there is often a often a key worker or close family member who knows how they are feeling. However, they may not be understood by others in their circle of support like teachers, special needs assistants, care workers, family members, therapists and other health care professionals.

How does Empathic work?

Most of us recognise the sound of laughter as an expression of happiness, this is consistent across many languages and cultures. Since 2019 we have been researching emotions and how artificial intelligence (AI) can help to interpret vocal expressions from individuals who cannot use words. This led us to develop Empathic with the support of University College Dublin, Queens University Belfast, non-verbal people, health care professionals, service providers and families.

To learn more about the science and technology behind Empathic, click here: Read More


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