Chennai-based Invention Labs that has developed Avaz AAC, a speech therapy app for autistic children, has raised $550,000 in seed funding led by Inventus Capital and Mumbai Angels, according to a report by TechCrunch. Google India MD Rajan Anandan and Raju Reddy, founder, Sierra Atlantic are among the other investors who participated in the round.
The funding will be used to expand Avaz into new geographies and also flesh out additional features. The app is already popular across the US, Denmark, Australia, India and Italy in languages like Italian and Dansk.
Avaz is a picture-based communication tool that helps autistic children use their picture identification skill to create picture messages, which are then spoken out by a speech engine. The app can be used under the supervision of a speech therapist, and will help kids develop strong communication skills, and also gradually learn new words and grammar through the use of pictures.
In order to enable children to build language, Avaz offers three graded, research-based vocabulary sets, with over 5,000 core and peripheral words, organised into intuitive categories. The picture vocabulary is exhaustive and colour-coded linguistically, to assist language development. It has a system of surrounding words with 'conversation starters', so that they can be used in sentences quickly and effortlessly. By building and speaking sentences with Avaz, children can communicate their thoughts, and also learn to generalise the usage of words, accelerating language development.
"There is a small amount of money being spent in core autism research; the majority of funding goes towards management of the disability â€“ how to allow kids with autism to learn language, communicate and express themselves socially, in spite of their disability," said Ajit Narayanan, founder of Invention Labs.
"Avaz AAC addresses one specific dimension of the issue of managing autism â€“ which is to teach a child with autism how to communicate, and help them build literacy," he added.
Narayanan, an alumnus of IIT Madras founded Invention Labs in 2007. He has been working on the area of language development for several years and is now keen to explore the applications of these technologies in disabilities like dyslexia. He has also invented FreeSpeech, which helps create maps of images to represent ideas in a completely language-independent way. The company is now planning to launch a FreeSpeech-enabled Avaz app.
(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)