According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, speech-language pathology as a career is continuing to grow faster than the average through 2026. There are currently 145,000 SLP’s in the U.S. and most healthcare systems and school districts will tell you that more are needed. Fortunately, rapidly advancing technology is becoming available that will help SLP’s utilize and create new treatment methods. Here are future technologies that are or will be impacting speech-language pathology.
3D Printing – Anyone who has recently watched a science-fiction based TV show or movie has probably seen a depiction of something being created by a 3D printer. However, 3D printing isn’t just science fiction anymore and as it becomes more mainstream and available, SLPs may soon see the technology at work in their field. Whatever you can imagine can be 3D printed. Imagine 3D printing various assistive devices, or hearing aids, cochlear implants, and more. The sky is the limit!
Artificial Intelligence – Another technology that until now was relegated to Hollywood, Artificial Intelligence is everywhere. Do you talk to Alexa or Siri? If so, you are interacting with a form of artificial intelligence. Recently, Google introduced their entry into the AI world with Google Duplex. It is currently designed to perform three distinct tasks during its developmental stage, making restaurant reservations, scheduling hair appointments, and calling businesses to find hours of operation, all using a very realistic, human sounding voice. In the future, AI like Duplex can be tasked with helping SLP patients work through vocal exercises and more.
Virtual Reality – Another tech advancement that is rapidly integrating with mainstream activities is virtual reality. The technology will not only be used to help SLP patients by immersing them into a virtual therapy session, VR technology will be used in educational settings for SLPs. Whether it is taking a refresher course on dysphagia and being in a VR setting of a swallow study, or taking continuing education courses in virtual settings. Don’t be surprised when VR begins intersecting with your SLP practice sooner rather than later.
Robots – Milo is a robot designed for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to help engage them in their communication and social skills. Milo can walk, talk, and model human facial expressions. He can be programmed to deliver any variety of lessons in a positive, consistent and non-threatening way. Therapists control Milo’s actions through an iPad application and his interactions with the student are recorded through his camera. As successful as Milo has been in a limited number of settings to date, one can only imagine that future iterations of Milo can be programmed to assist treatments for all manner of disabilities, conditions, or communication challenges.
Any of the above would be exciting developments in the future for SLPs, but to have all four advancing at such a rapid pace is amazing to consider. What technologies are you most looking forward to integrating into your SLP practice? Are their cutting-edge advances that are already available that we might have missed? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below or drop us a line on our Facebook page.