InvoTek scores another federal grant

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 131 views 

Alma-based InvoTek has again captured a Small Business Innovation Research grant geared toward providing assistance to people with disabilities.

The company, a cutting-edge, high-tech, research-oriented company devoted to finding new ways for people with profound disabilities to communicate and interact using technology, announced Thursday (April 26) it had received a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The grant, totaling $550,100, will fund the creation of a speech generation tool giving young children with disabilities a fun and interactive way to learn and practice communication skills. PlayTalk is a collaboration of InvoTek and researchers at Penn State University.

“Approximately 675,000 children in the United States have disabilities that slow their speech development and consequently are at high risk in all aspects of development,” Tom Jakobs, InvoTek’s president, said in a statement. “PlayTalk is exceptional in that it promotes communication, language, and cognitive development by these young children more effectively than other devices on the market today.”

According to the statement, PlayTalk uses developmentally appropriate pictures, organization, and navigational techniques so it is easy for young children to understand and use. It also enables adults to add communication displays and language concepts easily and quickly while interacting with the child, without disturbing the fun and learning.

The Phase II program integrates new, innovative features available for various platforms, including iPads and other tablet computers.

In December 2011, InvoTek received a Small Business Innovation Research grant of $150,288 from the National Institute on Aging. The grant will fund the development of a training tool to help caregivers provide the appropriate amount of assistance and support to people with dementia. The initial version of the tool will focus on the daily activity of dressing.

Also, InvoTek won in 2011 a da Vinci Award for Communication and Educational Aids. The award honors innovative developments and research in adaptive and assistive technologies for people with disabilities from organizations around the globe.

The company designed Supplemental Speech Recognition (SSR) to help clients communicate more efficiently, thereby reducing fatigue and frustration. SSR enables people with physical and speech disabilities to use their natural speech combined with a few keystrokes to enter text efficiently.

The Michigan chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society established the da Vinci Award in 2001 to “celebrate people who triumph over disabilities and honor those who have developed new technologies and innovations that enhance mobility and enable people to function at their fullest.”

Jakobs, with degrees in bioengineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago and in theology from St. Gregory University, began InvoTek more than 21 years ago with a vision to help others. Today, his business card reads "Compassion Driven Innovations" underneath the company logo.