System for facilitating Speech-Based Communication for Individuals Unable to Speak or Write


Our novel communication system enables patients unable to speak or write to communicate with others in real time, through a motion-controlled wireless device.

Market Opportunity

The use of non-speech communication is important in certain health care situations when a patient is unable to communicate through speech. Examples are when a patient is intubated, undergoing treatment for an orofacial injury, or has a tracheotomy with mechanical ventilation but does not yet have the lung capacity to use a Passy-Muir (“speaking”) valve. The patient also may not have the cognitive clarity and/or fine motor control to use a pencil and paper, keypad/ keyboard, or other device to convey their needs or answer questions. Thus, there is a need for a non-speech communication system that is easy to use by patients with a variety of conditions and cognitive/physical abilities.

Innovation and Meaningful Advantages

Our novel manually operated communication system (MOCS) consists of a hand-controlled ball (data input subsystem) and a tablet (display subsystem) for display/audio. Because the ball is wireless and has no base, it can be operated by individuals unable to produce most hand movements other than a squeeze. Those who are unable to reach a device that rests on a table or bed can place the device on their stomach or a pillow. In addition, the system can be used by ICU and other bed-bound patients unable to look clearly at their own hands.

The ball senses, and wirelessly conveys, information associated with 3-D movement (such as squeezing). The display tablet receives the information and presents a visual representation of it in a graphical user interface (GUI). The patient can then interact with the GUI by manipulating the ball. Because the MOCS does not require a central processing server, it introduces no information security issues. Unlike paper or keyboard-based systems, both the ball and tablet computer can be cleaned thoroughly and easily. Use of the MOCS is not limited to clinical settings.

Collaboration Opportunity

We are interested in exploring 1) startup opportunities with investors in the medical device space; 2) research collaborations with leading medical device companies; and 3) licensing opportunities with medical device companies.

Principal Investigator

Leigh Hochberg, MD, PhD

Professor of Engineering

Brown University

IP Information

US20210045692A1; Patent Issued February 18, 2021.


Stavisky SD, Willett FR, Wilson GH, et al. Neural ensemble dynamics in dorsal motor cortex during speech in people with paralysis. Elife. 2019;8:e46015. Published 2019 Dec 10. doi:10.7554/eLife.46015



Melissa Simon

Director of Business Development

Brown ID 2605J


Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Brown Technology Innovations
350 Eddy Street - Box 1949
Providence, RI 02903
Leigh Hochberg
Miriam Goldberg
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