Honours Bachelor of Arts (HBA) 2010
Alexander Levy is the Founder of MyVoice, a groundbreaking assistive technology company that makes apps for people with profound speech disabilities. Today, MyVoice products literally give a voice to thousands of people with challenges like autism, cerebral palsy, stroke, and Parkinson's. For his work, Levy was named PROFIT Magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year and a University of Toronto Inventor of the Year.
After getting his degree in political science, Levy planned to go to law school when he took a research assistant job at the Technologies for Aging Gracefully Lab in the Department of Computer Science. It was there he encountered a stroke survivor named Bill who had difficulty speaking due to aphasia. Bill carried a bulky speaking machine and a huge binder with photos representing words.
Levy, with the help of others, including Professor Ronald Baecker, developed a prototype app for mobile phones which helped users including Bill easily speak phrases and words for everyday situations. Its technology also let users find relevant vocabulary they might need based on their GPS location and gave them the ability to enlist family members to help customize the app’s phrases and pictures online.
“There were so many people saying to us that ‘what you developed would be helpful for my family member or my child, my patient or my student’,” said Levy, “and the stories they would tell us about the desperate need made us want to start a business.”
Since then, MyVoice has become a successful spinoff company with two product lines: TalkRocket Go, a personalized phrase-based communicator for iPad and iPhone, and RocketKeys, an accessible predictive talking keyboard for iPad. These products have helped pioneer new technologies, such as word prediction based on a study of Twitter tweets, smart accessibility for unsteady hands, and accommodations for users with vision impairments.
Today, thousands of people in 30 countries use MyVoice’s TalkRocket Go and RocketKeys apps to participate in education, employment, social life, and the simple joy of conversation.
Published Nov. 28, 2013.