NIH Awards $850,000 SBIR Fast-Track Grant to Fluential

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded an $850,000 Fast-Track Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to Fluential to develop and evaluate a advanced two-way speech translation system to enable hospital nurses to communicate with their Spanish- and Cantonese-speaking patients.

Fluential will create the speech translation system using S-MINDS, the technology platform the company has developed for the U.S. military. The system will provide hospital nurses with access to medical interpretation. The system will be developed in collaboration with a San Francisco-based medical center.

The NIH awards SBIR grants to small companies with fewer than 500 employees to engage in federal research that has the potential to solve important problems for society and also shows strong promise for commercialization. Fast-Track grants are reserved for those projects showing the most potential for commercial success and are awarded in two phases.

In Phase 1, which will be completed by June of this year, Fluential's system will enable nurses to complete common tasks with their Spanish-speaking patients, including checking patients' vital signs, assessing their pain, and conducting a respiratory assessment. Phase 2 will be completed by the end of next year and will enable a range of nurse-patient interactions in both Spanish and Cantonese.

The completed system will contain speech recognition, language translation, and speech synthesis engines, as well as a library of common concepts that are used in nurse-patient interactions in all three languages. During the evaluation period, Fluential will continue to update the system with additional words, phrases, and sentences.


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