SoapBox Labs Receives Funding from Gates Foundation

24th July 2023

Posted In: Be In The Frame

SoapBox Labs, the voice AI company that powers accurate and equity-driven learning experiences for kids, announced new funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a Spanish language voice engine to support the needs of millions of young literacy and language learning students across the U.S.

More than 11 million young children, or 33 percent of all U.S. children under the age of 9, are dual language learners. In 2020, Spanish was the most commonly reported home language of English Language Learners (ELLs), representing 7.8 percent of all public school students in the US, a figure that is closer to 20% in states like Texas and California.

“Investing in the power of our voice engine technology to support the next generation of dual language learners is a critical step towards addressing literacy gaps in the U.S., and around the world,” said Martyn Farrows, CEO of SoapBox Labs.

“With this funding from the Gates Foundation, we look forward to working with our education partners to power more inclusive voice-enabled tools and systems to support children of every age, accent and background on their learning journeys”.

Built from the ground up for young voices and educational use cases, SoapBox’s voice technology can accurately understand children’s unique speech patterns as well as differences in accents or dialects, down to the phoneme level.

SoapBox-powered early literacy and language tools can automatically and accurately analyse each phoneme – or utterance – a child makes, returning to teachers the immediate and longitudinal data they need to pinpoint individual challenges and personalize their support and instruction, across large numbers of students.

SoapBox is the first and only automated speech recognition solution to receive the Prioritising Racial Equity in AI Design Product Certification by global education nonprofit Digital Promise.This new Gates Foundation funded project aligns with the foundation’s Global Access policy which aims to amplify the public benefit of innovative new education technology tools in a culturally responsive and child centred way, to deliver improved educational outcomes for all student users.

Inspired by her oldest child and her background as a speech engineer at companies like IBM and Bell Labs, Patricia Scanlon, PhD founded SoapBox Labs in 2013. In 2022, Dr. Scanlon was appointed Ireland’s first AI Ambassador.

By the end of June 2023, SoapBox had powered the learning tools of over 50 education companies and delivered more than 80 million learning experiences for young students globally.