SoapBox Labs signs deal with US-based Imagine Learning

Literacy programme aimed at children aged 4-12, accelerating language development

Irish speech recognition company SoapBox Labs has partnered with US-based Imagine Learning on a new tool that will help educators more easily assess the literacy and language learning progress of students.

The Fluent Reader+ tool, which will use SoapBox Labs’ technology, will be part of Imagine Learning’s Language and Literacy programme from this summer. The Dublin-based company’s voice engine gives teachers better insights into students’ progress, highlighting where they may need additional support.

This follows a successful three-month pilot programme using the technology, with 15,000 students taking part. The pilot revealed the Fluent Reader+ programme achieved levels of accuracy comparable to that of experienced educators in the classroom. Teachers in the pilot also used the tool more frequently, with more students compared to their peers.

"We've long imagined the possibility of speech recognition technology to help teachers make the most of their time in the classroom," said Jeff Pendleton, senior vice president and general manager of supplemental and intervention at Imagine Learning. "But most speech engines have been designed primarily for adults and don't work well for kids. The results of our pilot with SoapBox's voice engine show that it not only works accurately for children, but also for a diversity of accents, dialects, and learning abilities. This is exciting for us and for educators everywhere."


10 million students

Imagine Learning’s Language and Literacy programme is aimed at children aged from around four to 12 years old, accelerating literacy and English language development. It is used daily by around 20,000 teachers. Overall, Imagine Learning’s products serves around 10 million students across the US.

The use of voice-enabled tools can replace cumbersome, manual assessments, saving time for teachers.

Education has been a focus for SoapBox. Established in 2013, the company uses artificial intelligence and deep learning to develop cloud-based speech recognition solutions for children.

“At SoapBox Labs, we pride ourselves on building speech recognition technology for kids that is accurate, inclusive, and fair. We are delighted to have been selected by Imagine Learning to service their user base of students, educators, and classrooms across the US,” said Martyn Farrows, chief executive of SoapBox Labs. “This partnership is borne out of a focus on constant innovation and improvement, and we are excited about the opportunities for working together in the future”.

SoapBox Labs technology is now used across a range of applications, from education to play, helping to screen children for dyslexia, or an aid for teachers in determining reading levels.

The company has secured close to 50 global licences with clients globally to date.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

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