Researchers are working to create a virtual speech therapist for patients who have lost their language skills due to a stroke or other head trauma.
The avatar is being developed at Temple University in Philadelphia. It's designed to help people practice their speaking skills after insurance has stopped covering visits to human clinicians.
Experts say the cyber tool is needed because the speech disorder known as aphasia (ah-FAYZH'-yah) can be a lifelong battle.
Some existing virtual therapy involves patients reading scripts. But the Temple team says its approach challenges patients to spontaneously generate speech in conversations with the avatar.
One exercise involves patients pretending to book a vacation with the virtual therapist, who acts as a travel agent.