**This is part of our series highlighting startups who share our mission of trying to make people’s lives just a little easier**
Technology and medicine are two forces that have recently begun to embrace each other in new and amazing ways—both in simpler ways, such as apps, and in more complex ways, such as AI. Machine learning has found a major role to play in the medical field and the horizon is only getting brighter. New technologies have the potential to bring more and more monumental changes to people across the globe, driving a technology-driven, social good movement that’s gaining speed.
In fact, a monumental change is exactly what one team of developers had in mind when creating a revolutionary communication app that’s designed specifically for patients suffering from a disorder called aphasia.
It’s an app called Wemogee, and it’s destined to help nearly two million people through its use of emojis as a language tool.
About Aphasia and Wemogee
Aphasia is a neurological disorder that occurs most often after a brain injury that affects the left side of the brain, which is the side of the brain that handles language skills like production, comprehension, and expression.
For those suffering from aphasia, it might mean having difficulty thinking of words to say, confusing unrelated words in a sentence, switching sounds in word combinations, struggling with putting whole sentences together, or even using made-up words.
This means that those suffering from it have lost not only their speaking ability, but the ability to communicate via writing or texting. Those who acquire the disorder number about 180,000 annually, and are sometimes unable to recover from it completely.
For those 180,000 people, Samsung Wemogee was created to enhance therapy with speech language pathologists, as well as to serve as an at-home tool for patients to communicate with family and friends.
Roughly two million Americans are affected by aphasia today, and every one of these individuals could benefit from this new app.
Before 2017, individuals with aphasia didn’t have an easy and accessible way to continue communicating with their family, friends, and loved ones. Since then, however, Samsung Electronics Italia has come out with their revolutionary app that combines the power of medicine, therapy, and technology in a way that allows individuals suffering from aphasia to continue communicating with others outside the verbal barrier.
Wemogee gives individuals the power to communicate outside the verbal barrier of communication.
This little-known app utilizes images in the form of emojis so that aphasic patients can communicate solely by choosing specific picture sequences in order to convey what they are thinking or feeling. The app has an extensive visual library to choose from—there are more than 140 phrases that are then directly translated into their corresponding images. So a woman suffering from aphasia can text visual images to her son, who receives her message after they have been translated into written text. Then, he can type out a response that will then be translated back to her in picture form.
So whether the user is in aphasic mode or non-aphasic mode, there is still a constant and easy flow of communication happening. For those affected by aphasia, it can help make the recovery process much easier, no matter how long the road is.
This is an app that shows how technology can be used for the greater good. Many of us probably haven’t heard of aphasia or know anyone affected by it, but for those who have experienced the difficulties of living with such a disability, here for the first time is an innovative form of therapy that is utilizing today’s modern tools.
Why Wemogee is Revolutionary
Traditional therapy for aphasic patients includes working with a speech language pathologist in finding alternative ways to communicate with their disability. There are other ways to communicate—like simple hand gestures, pointing to images, using a computer, or basic writing—but none of these are applicable when it comes to quickly and easily communicating in today’s technology-driven world.
But with Wemogee, a visual form of communication has been transformed and adapted into an easy-to-use and perceptive app. Wemogee allows aphasic patients to utilize both single images and image combinations to communicate questions, sentences, feelings, and expressions. This means that simply asking someone “How are you?” is no longer an impossible task dependent on the use of words and grammar, but is now easy to text by simply tapping a specific series of emoji.
The app is different from the way most of us use the emoji keyboard to supplement a text (for example, when you include the birthday cake emoji along with a “Hope your birthday is great!” text), because it provides aphasic patients with specific emoji combinations that are then automatically translated to the non-aphasic recipient.
It’s an amazing feat that a team of dedicated doctors and speech therapists have created in order to transform thousands of lives directly affected by aphasia.
This is a new communication code that is affecting thousands of lives—all made possible by today’s advancing technology.
Wemogee’s Role in the “Technology for Good” Movement
A lot of technology today is being engineered to make our lives easier, simpler, and happier. Everyday users have countless gadgets, apps, and online tools to transform daily living and gain more free time to accomplish even bigger things. And every day there is someone out there brainstorming another technological tool.
Beyond that, we now have the power of technology behind us to change lives and make headway into the world of science and medicine. More and more developers are looking to their skills and resources to help those in need and to improve aspects of our world that are less than healthy—this “technology for good” movement is showing up in tools both large and small. The developers behind Wemogee is just one example of a team looking for ways to combine resources and explore ways that technology can be reworked and enhanced to improve lives.
This year’s World Economic Forum touted a theme that speaks of uniting forces for a better outcome: “Creating a shared future in a fractured world.” Perhaps we’re already seeing this sort of unity in the world of tech development, as individuals from different walks of life combine their knowledge, expertise, experience, passion, and vision to create something new that will help people down the road.
So as this “technology for good” movement gains in popularity, it will fuel advancements in both AI and more basic tech tools—ultimately reaching a wider demographic of people whose lives could benefit from tech innovations.
Aiming for the Greater Good
There are so many reasons to celebrate technology and the way that it has empowered us to dream bigger and do more in terms of helping lives. But it’s also true that our advanced technology can do so many things that we are capable of doing—which means, yes, more negative side effects such as AI replacing or displacing work forces in various fields.
So even as we see tech tools like the Samsung Wemogee app helping thousands of individuals, we also might see the other side of technology affecting industries.
For example, there are technological tools that improve our lives, but these tools might also put us at risk to have private information stolen. There is technology that can boost the productivity of a business, but at the same time puts workers out of their jobs.
We can probably name dozens of negative outcomes of allowing technology to play such a major role in the way we live our lives, but hopefully the ultimate result is that it enables us all to live better, healthier lives.
For example, a New York Times article recently stated that big data and artificial intelligence might be replacing white-collar workers in the future, but it also might have the potential of fighting poverty in society. Approaching the issue with three main sources—lack of income, lack of preparedness, and dependency on welfare—AI has the potential of addressing all three issues and matching individuals to appropriate jobs.
Beyond that, AI could even predict where future job openings will be, what type of skills the jobs will require, and what kind of training individuals might need to fill those positions.
So ultimately the end result could bring about a greater good, even if the immediate result appears to be negative.
“[I]t’s time we start thinking about A.I.’s potential benefits for society as well as its drawbacks.”
With any good thing, there will always be a negative side. But in terms of the bigger picture, we are ultimately taking steps toward a future that utilizes and maximizes the skills and tools that we have in order to improve lives all across the globe. Like Wemogee, we can thank technology for empowering individuals and reducing suffering in industries like healthcare. It’s paving a road for scientists, doctors, business owners, therapists, and countless other trailblazers to see a gap and think, “What can we create to fill this hole in a way that helps others?”
It’s a question that we can all benefit from, and it’s a question that can utilize the power of technology in ways we’ve never seen before. Who knows where we’ll be further down the road?