SoapBox Imagine

SoapBox Labs Will Bring Speech Recognition AI to Major Literacy Tech Developer Imagine Learning

Kid-focused speech recognition startup SoapBox Labs will incorporate AI-based reading ability assessment into literacy education technology developer Imagine Learning’s program. The new Fluent Reader+ tool will enable teachers to accurately assess their students’ reading ability and where they need help without having to manually score the tests.

Learning Voice

SoapBox will bring Fluent Reader+ to Imagine Learning’s Language & Literacy program used by more than 20,000 teachers starting this summer. The program tests students on their ability to read out text correctly, scoring the results based on how well they do and the difficulty of the text they are reading. Normally, a teacher has to sit with a student as they read and determine their score by hand. SoapBox Labs offers an automated analysis of their fluency, where the student is struggling, and other insights. A three-month pilot with 15,000 students using SoapBox’s tech scored oral reading fluency and language as accurately as students with long-time teachers. The educators pulled up the oral scores more often than those who weren’t in the pilot and reported finding better ways to improve student literacy. Unlike many standard speech recognition engines, SoapBox has specialized in understanding children, applying its deep learning technology to thousands of hours of children’s speech to develop models capable of understanding what children say far better than the standard models for adults.

“We’ve long imagined the possibility of speech recognition technology to help teachers make the most of their time in the classroom,” Imagine Learning senior vice president and general manager of supplemental and intervention Jeff Pendleton said. “But most speech engines have been designed primarily for adults and don’t work well for kids. The results of our pilot with SoapBox’s voice engine show that it not only works accurately for children, but also for a diversity of accents, dialects, and learning abilities. This is exciting for us and for educators everywhere.”

SoapBox Spread

The Imagine Learning arrangement is the latest in a series of significant partnerships for the Ireland-based SoapBox. Most recently, the company embedded its tech into the Lexile Framework of oral reading tests developed by MetaMetrics. The corporate connections follow SoapBox’s agreement to create a literacy test for Florida State University’s Florida Center for Reading Research, and team-ups with educational institutions like McGraw Hill and Amplify, with more deals in the works.

“At SoapBox Labs, we pride ourselves on building speech recognition technology for kids that is accurate, inclusive, and fair. We are delighted to have been selected by Imagine Learning to service their user base of students, educators, and classrooms across the US,” said SoapBox Labs CEO Martyn Farrows said. “This partnership is borne out of a focus on constant innovation and improvement, and we are excited about the opportunities for working together in the future”.


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