Dublin AI business Soapbox Labs receives funding from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop voice technology for Spanish-speaking children.
Funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help Irish tech firm SoapBox Labs develop new Spanish voice engine to support literacy and language learning for millions of preK-12 students across the US.
Soapbox’s founder and chair Dr Patricia Scanlon was named one of the world’s top women in tech by Forbes magazine.
“Investing in the power of our voice engine technology to support the next generation of dual language learners is a critical step towards addressing literacy gaps in the US, and around the world”
SoapBox Labs last year revealed plans to scale rapidly in the next two years from 30 to 80 employees.
The business powers accurate and equity-driven learning experiences for kids.
Levelling the learning field
More than 11m young children, or 33% of all US children under the age of nine, are dual language learners. In 2020, Spanish was the most commonly reported home language of English Language Learners (ELLs), representing 7.8 percent of all public school students in the US, a figure that is closer to 20% in states like Texas and California.
“Investing in the power of our voice engine technology to support the next generation of dual language learners is a critical step towards addressing literacy gaps in the US, and around the world,” said Martyn Farrows, CEO of SoapBox Labs.
“With this funding from the Gates Foundation, we look forward to working with our education partners to power more inclusive voice-enabled tools and systems to support children of every age, accent and background on their learning journeys”.
Built from the ground up for young voices and educational use cases, SoapBox’s voice technology can accurately understand children’s unique speech patterns as well as differences in accents or dialects, down to the phoneme level.
SoapBox-powered early literacy and language tools can automatically and accurately analyze each phoneme – or utterance – a child makes, returning to teachers the immediate and longitudinal data they need to pinpoint individual challenges and personalize their support and instruction, across large numbers of students.
SoapBox is the first and only automated speech recognition solution to receive the Prioritizing Racial Equity in AI Design Product Certification by global education nonprofit Digital Promise.
This new Gates Foundation funded project aligns with the foundation’s Global Access policy which aims to amplify the public benefit of innovative new education technology tools in a culturally responsive and child centered way, to deliver improved educational outcomes for all student users.