Education

This cool AI tool spots dyslexia as kids read

By Kitty Knowles 10 January 2018
Summary

Lexplore tracks eye movement to spot dyslexia sooner.

Dyslexia can make reading and spelling feel like a huge uphill struggle.

But do you know what can make it easier?

Having it picked up early so teachers and parents can give kids the learning support they need.

Now, a company called Lexplore has created an artificially intelligent helper to make it easier than ever for schools to spot students struggling with the learning disability.

It does this by tracking the movement of kids eyes as they read.

Meet Lexplore

Founded in Sweden in 2015, Lexplore has been designed to ensure no child with dyslexia is left behind.

“Schools don’t have an objective way of getting an overview of students reading ability today, which means many kids with reading difficulties get discovered too late,” Lexplore CMO Lars Lengquist tells The Memo.

“We use AI to screen for reading difficulties, so no kids fall between the cracks.”

How it works

Lexplore was spun-out of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm (the same institute that hands out the Nobel Prize in Medicine).

It’s built on research by Gustaf Öqvist Seimyr and Mattias Nilsson Benfatto who applied cutting-edge tracking and machine learning technologies to discoveries from earlier studies on eye movement.

Today the team is already bringing its technology to primary schools in Sweden and the US, where children (usually aged 5-10) are invited to read two short texts on a screen.

While they read, an eye tracker records their eye movements. These recordings are uploaded to a Microsoft cloud service where algorithms (trained on thousands of recordings) detect which children have proficient reading difficulties, and where on the scale each pupil is.

It can take a couple of days to screen a whole school, and a few days to process the results, but each school ends up with an insightful overview of all its students’ abilities.

“School leaders can then allocate resources and do follow ups, and teachers and ‘special ed’ can start interventions with students at risk of difficulties,” Lengquist explains.

Lexplore saves time and frees up resources, he adds, by allowing for individualised teaching and data-driven decisions about class needs.

Big benefits

Having raised more than £6m – and even recently winning a Nordic Edtech Award – Lexplore is certainly one to watch.

The company’s already completed successful trials with 3,000 Swedish students (in Järfälla and Trosa), and 1,500 pupils in the US (across Oregon, Washington, Minnesota and Georgia). It’s currently in the process of completing a study in the UK.

Already operating as a business, it’s racked up around 10,000 screenings to date in Sweden and the US, and Lengquist says Lexplore will grow by selling its services on a subscription basis to schools and districts around the world.

The Lexplore team is also even looking at different uses for its AI technology – including in the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, and for services around conditions like Attention Deficit Disorder and concussion.

But ensuring all children get the best education they can remains at its heart.

“We want all kids to get the ability to read – and to get that ability early,” says Lengquist.

We hope Lexplore helps more children discover what a joy reading can be.