Happy Valley Launchbox To Debut Student Invention “Voz Box” At Poetry Reading Wednesday

Happy Valley Launchbox will host a poetry reading on Wednesday to debut a new student invention that gives a voice to the voiceless. Pennsylvania Poet-Advocate Arlyn Edelstein, who was diagnosed with non-verbal cerebral palsy, will recite poems using the newly patented motion-activated augmented personal speech assistant invented by Mary Elizabeth McCulloch, a recent Penn State biomedical engineering graduate.

The event will take place on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Launchbox, which is located at 224 S. Allen St, and is free and open to the public. Musician Isaac Moyer will perform before and after Edelstein’s poetry reading.

Edelstein will recite poetry using the Vive system, which was pioneered by McCulloch. With it she is able to construct words, sentences, and phrases through the interconnected use of a special earpiece, a pressure-activated pedal, and Vive editing software.

The foot-pedal, which is mounted on the left foot rest of her wheelchair, acts like a pen or keyboard. After she has selected her words, they are amplified through a Bluetooth-linked speaker to her audience. The vocabulary, stored in the memory of a small control unit, is easily expandable and culturally adaptable through the Vive editing software.

While rehearsing for Wednesday’s recital, Ms. Edelstein (pictured here with Ms. McCulloch) exclaimed via Voz Box, "I can't believe it. I have been hoping to do this all my life."
While rehearsing for Wednesday’s recital, Edelstein (pictured here with McCulloch) exclaimed via Voz Box, “I can’t believe it. I have been hoping to do this all my life.”

McCulloch developed the Vive voice-augmentation concept while she was volunteering for children with non-verbal cerebral palsy in Ecuador. The Voz Box has a range of applications, including several wearable versions such as watches, gloves, elbow bands, and knee bands. Estimates are that the Vive gear – once in production – will cost a fraction of the less portable and more impersonal communications products, including type pads, which are now available to the public but are inaccessible to the vast majority of the millions of people with complex communications needs. McCulloch’s invention won wide acclaim and is among the featured small businesses at the Penn State LaunchBox accelerator.

“Arlyn’s poetry, which reflects on nature and her life with cerebral palsy, has inspired us as a team and showed us the life-changing potential of the Voz Box,” McCulloch said.

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About the Author

Katie Klodowski

Katie is a senior from Pittsburgh, PA and a retired editor at Onward State. Currently, she works as a staff writer. True to her hometown, she is a fan of Steel City sports but also uses her ballet and music training to be a tough critic of all things artsy. The fastest ways to her heart are through pizza, sushi, and a solid taste in music (this means no Taylor Swift). To be constantly razzle-dazzled, follow her on all social media forms at @KatieKlodowski

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