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From AI to Hi! Growth Fund graduate OTTAA optimizes AI to ease communication for people with disabilities

Comunicacion Aumentativa Data Science+AI Chile
Sep 26 , 2023
@Angaza Elimu
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Data Science+AI

Comunicacion Aumentativa

Amount invested $306,194 USD Funding Status active growth period Founded in 2016 by Hector Costa
DPG Certified


Since its inception, OTTAA has been driven by a singular mission: to bring cutting-edge technology to individuals with disabilities, ultimately revolutionizing the way people with disabilities communicate with their loved ones and peers.

The past year has exemplified our commitment to innovation, even in a traditionally conservative market. We have successfully introduced groundbreaking technologies and reimagined our business model. Leveraging the potential of state-of-the-art AI models such as GPT and Stable Diffusion, among others, we have developed and validated a range of algorithms. These algorithms serve to maximize the capabilities of these advanced technologies and trends.

Additionally, we have undertaken extensive exploration and definition of the change we aspire to create in the world, encapsulating our vision in a Theory of Change. This comprehensive approach has enabled us to validate and scale a business model aligned with our mission. The positive outcomes have been substantial, reflected in significant growth in both revenue and the impact we have deployed throughout Latin America.

OTTAA's  dedication to advancing assistive technology for individuals with disabilities has yielded remarkable results, and we remain committed to pursuing further innovations to enhance communication and accessibility for all. @Communicacion Aumentativa
OTTAA's  dedication to advancing assistive technology for individuals with disabilities has yielded remarkable results, and we remain committed to pursuing further innovations to enhance communication and accessibility for all. @Communicacion Aumentativa


Over the past year our team was able to:

  • Reach impressive growth in quarterly revenue, reaching $113,000 in Q3 2022.
  • Attract a flourishing user base with 15,000 monthly active users.
  • Achieved the status of a certified Digital Public Good (DPG), highlighting commitment to openness, inclusivity, and public benefit.
  • Complete overhaul of the main app, OTTAA Project, with a focus on improving user interface and experience (UI/UX).
  • Integration of GPT technology for advanced prediction capabilities and sentence creation.
  • Development of a new way of creating customized pictograms.
  • Run multiple workshops across Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, reaching more than 500 healthcare professionals outside the big metropolis.

Prototyping & Iterative Design

Where we iterated the most during the last 12 months is in our AI algorithms, they have mutated and improved along the journey in completely unpredicted ways. We are stoked with what we ended up with, it’s exponentially better and already deployed to our users.

AI comms device

We had two great developments: 1. pictogram prediction and sentence realization, and 2. a custom pictogram creator.

Prediction and sentence realization:
We needed an algorithm that helped recommend the most likely pictograms for each sequence in a certain context. This model started with an nGram predictor based on probabilities that we developed from scratch. To that model we added features such as context contemplation and pictogram tokenization to improve both the training process and the predictions themselves, by better contextualizing what the user is trying to express.

Once the pictogram sentence is built, the sentence is verbalized using a realizer. This tool transforms the sequence of pictograms into a proper coherent sentence, conjugating verbs in the proper tense or adding articles and connectors. At first we developed our own custom realiser functionality, but after a recommendation from our UNICEF mentors, we opted for a more innovative solution. Currently we use OpenAI’s GPT4 to carry out the realization process, getting much better results and with less requirements.

This tool is aimed to help our users easily create their own pictograms. Originally, we were planning the app to use an Object Detector that would place pictograms based on the positions of objects detected on an image. But after encountering many problems porting these models to mobile, and again encouraged by our UNICEF mentors, we chose a Generative Image model and fine tuned a Stable Diffusion model with the LoRA paradigm to create pictograms from text prompts.

Object detection:
The first approach here was to detect what is on the image and then place pictograms to match what was detected.

AI-powered object detection

Generative AI by text prompts:
After several iterations, we decided to try a brand new approach, generative AI. So we trained an algorithm with a vast amount of pictograms and here is the result.

AI-powered pictogramsWe see a huge improvement in the quality of the result, much similar to a real pictogram from ARASAAC.

User and Field Testing: The Story of Antonella

We share the the incredible story of Antonella, better known as the unstoppable Pule!

Pule is an 11-year-old girl diagnosed with Type 1 Spinal Muscular Atrophy. It had been just over a month since Pule received her eye-tracking device, OCUS, alongside her communication device, OTTAA.

We proposed simple activities to help her become familiar with these new tools.

Little did we know the mind-blowing impact these tools would have on her life.

On the day of the recording, it was evident that Pule was excited. We were surprised when not only was she able to introduce herself and greet us all using her new device, but also showed us everything she had accomplished in just a month and a half. She opened and wrote documents for her school assignments, browsed websites to learn English, and even enjoyed streaming platforms.

At the end of the recording, we asked Pule if she wanted to leave a message in one of her documents, and with her eyes, she wrote, "Hi guys, I really enjoy using the computer with my eyes."

Pule writing with eyes

At that moment, we realized the significance of what we were achieving. We weren't just providing an 11-year-old girl with access to a computer; we were empowering her to tell her story and communicate with anyone she wanted. Pule could introduce herself to the world through a video testimony and share a message from her computer.

We then understood that creating these videos not only allows us to promote our tools but also brings us closer to our users, allows us to get to know them better.

AI communication

The story of Pule is a testament to the boundless possibilities that emerge when technology and determination unite. We are humbled and inspired by Pule's journey, and we can't wait to continue empowering individuals like her to break barriers, communicate their truths, and shape their own narratives. Together, we're rewriting the rules of communication and rewriting the stories of countless lives.

See more stories like Pule’s here

Business Model

Over the past year, we've made remarkable strides in validating our business model and finding a strong fit within the market. This has been reflected in our impressive growth across multiple metrics. Our quarterly revenue soared to  $113,000 in Q3 2022, highlighting the increasing demand for our products or services. Our user base has also grown remarkably, with 15,000 monthly active users engaging with our offerings. Additionally, our total pipeline value has reached a substantial $672,500, underscoring the promising potential for future revenue. These achievements affirm our ability to deliver value to customers while positioning us for further growth and success in the future.

Future Collaborations

We are proud to have established collaborations with esteemed organizations such as Teleton, SENADIS, Ceibal, and others. These partnerships have been instrumental in advancing our mission of enhancing communication and supporting individuals with disabilities.

We firmly believe in the power of collaboration and partnerships to drive innovation and create meaningful change. By joining forces with organizations like Teleton, SENADIS, Ceibal, and others, we can collectively work towards a more inclusive society where individuals with disabilities have equal opportunities for communication and self-expression.

As OTTAA Project continues to grow, we are actively seeking collaborations with various companies, organizations, individuals, and industry partners:

  • Research Institutions and Universities:
    • Collaborating with research institutions and universities can foster academic partnerships to conduct studies, evaluate the efficacy of our AAC app, and explore new avenues for improvement.
  • Disability Advocacy Organizations:
    • Partnering with them can strengthen our understanding of the needs and challenges faced by individuals with disabilities.
  • Speech and Language Pathologists:
    • Collaboration with speech and language pathologists can provide valuable insights into the clinical aspects of AAC and ensure that our app aligns with best practices and therapy goals.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Programs:
    • Collaborating with companies' CSR programs can help us reach a wider audience, gain visibility, and secure resources to support our mission.

Way Forward

The future looks promising for OTTAA Project and our vision on how to approach assistive devices, specially AAC devices, one of the best takeaways from our journey with UNICEF and our mentorship sessions was the change of our approach to AI, instead of developing from the ground up, as we were doing,  they helped us to understand that, to leverage cutting-edge AI algorithms and state-of-the-art predictive models, a fine-tuning approach was better suited for us, to bring the technology to our users faster.

harnessing AAC tech
We will focus on integrating these new technologies (LLMs, Lora, Stable diffusion, and more) into our app and further developments, to fulfill our mission of bringing technology to the people with disabilities. By embracing these advancements and exploring new avenues for integration, we are confident that we can make a lasting and positive difference in the lives of the individuals and communities we serve. Our commitment to leveraging technology to enhance the lives of people with disabilities remains unwavering, and we are excited about the transformative impact these new technologies will have on our app and the people who rely on it.

Working with the Venture Fund

The invaluable mentorship and guidance from tech and social impact experts have been like rocket fuel for our journey. They have helped us shape our business model, fine-tune our product-market fit, and achieve results we couldn't have imagined. The endorsement from UNICEF Venture Fund has been a game-changer, generating a huge swell in interest from so many stakeholders who are just as passionate about our cause. We can't express enough gratitude for the comprehensive support we received. We're excited to reach even more groundbreaking achievements!

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