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Providing a voice to the voiceless

Tar Heels are working to create an application that can read the lips of patients who have been temporarily rendered speechless following a medical procedure. The technology can help health care workers provide better care for the patients at a critical moment.

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Being unable to speak when you’re in the hospital or in a medical crisis can be frightening and a devastating handicap that significantly increases your risk of an adverse event.

“It has an implication on your social, physical and mental well-being,” said Andrew Prince, a resident at UNC Hospitals.

To improve medical care and to support those voiceless patients in critical moments, Prince and four Carolina graduate and professional students co-founded LiRA. The small startup was created to help voiceless patients be able to communicate through an application that can read lips and translate the information for health care workers.

Earlier this fall, LiRA won the $25,000 first-place prize in the Covintus Tech Tank pitch competition, a technology-focused accelerator designed to groom startup founders. The team is currently running a lip-train campaign where anyone can volunteer to help build the artificial intelligence that learns to lip-read.

“My hopes for LiRA are for LiRA to be in every hospital in the U.S. so that no patient is felt silenced by their needed medical treatment,” said Dina Yamaleyeva, a UNC School of Medicine student and co-founder of LiRA.

To participate in the lip-train program, visit  www.liraglobal.com/liptrain