Soapbox Labs and Microsoft Announce partnership

Irish tech company will bring its child focused speech recognition software to the Azure platform

Irish technology company SoapBox Labs has teamed up with Microsoft to bring its child focused speech recognition software to the tech giant's Azure platform.

The partnership is intended to offer a cost-effective tool to help battle the childhood literacy crisis, with the project set to roll out in ireland and Britain first.

The pilot project, which will include 20 schools, will show how the speech recognition technology can be used to support accessibility, literacy and language learning for young children, and at scale. There are plans to take it global in the coming months.

The speech recognition technology powers automated reading and language learning tutors that “listen” to a child reading aloud and assess pronunciation, responding the way an adult would. Children could use the technology to advance their reading skills.


"Children's voices differ greatly from adult's, both physically and behaviourally. Off-the-shelf speech recognition designed for adult voices and behaviours do not work accurately for children," said Patricia Scanlon, founder and chief executive of SoapBox Labs. "Our proprietary speech recognition technology is designed for children aged 4-12, modelling their voices and behaviours and thereby ensuring high accuracy. Developers can voice-enable entertainment and educational experiences for children by integrating our technology into their products."

Using Microsoft Azure allows the technology to be deployed globally and in a cost effective manner.

"Microsoft is partnering with SoapBox Labs because we believe that technology can solve significant societal challenges, like child literacy," said Cathriona Hallahan, Managing Director, Microsoft Ireland. "This partnership is an example of how AI for Good and cloud computing can be harnessed to deliver real social impact."

SoapBox Labs was founded in 2013 by Dr Scanlon, an ex-Bell Labs researcher.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist