Help designing medical speech device

Science Technology
Help designing medical speech device

This was posted to the MAKE Forums and I thought I’d repost it here:

We need to create a revamped “Cooper Rand” which is a speech device for those who have had throat cancer or other larynx related illness. This device needs to be wireless. Is anyone interested in sharing wireless technology ideas?

See it at

Technology from 1950 with 9 volt batteries. Any ideas about how to update it very much appreciated here and all over the world.

If you decide to help out with this project, keep us in the loop on it.

Need help with a new voice

14 thoughts on “Help designing medical speech device

  1. 0x0000 says:

    Building medical devices is strictly prohibited by law for safety, and legal reasons.

    The best device on the market is made in Germany. Yet, the obvious limitation is the new lithium cells are hard to find for disabled folk. In some ways the old 9v is still optimal.

    1. keithO says:

      How can you say that “Building medical devices is strictly prohibited by law…” when medical devices are built every second? It is true that to market and sell a medical device it has to meet a number of standards (depending on the country). However, anyone can develop a medical device and build a few for testing with no approvals at all. I’m sure the intent of the group is simply to come up with a proof-of-concept device and cross the regulatory hurdles if it looks promising.

      1. 0x0000 says:

        Just because it is technologically possible does not mean it is appropriate.

        You could build unrelated devices for amusement etc.
        However, the instant you imply it is a medical device a chain of legal accountability is enforced for every component.

        1. keithO says:

          Welcome back at you – I’ve been an engineer for 30 years and designing medical products for the last 20…

          I agree that before a medical product is SOLD the final version has to go through a formal design process with lots of paperwork to back it up. The production devices need paper trails tracing the origins of the critical components (not every component). There are many hurdles to overcome.

          But they can be overcome.

          None of those rules apply to prototypes meant to prove a concept.

          The hyperbole you have been posting is neither helpful nor completely true.

  2. says:

    I think I’m missing something – how can this be more wireless? It seems to consists of a belt pack that holds batteries and an oscillator with one wire connecting the pack to the transducer, and then a flexible plastic tube that goes to the mouth – seems basically like a talk box in a belt pack. If you just want to get rid of the one wire, put the transducer in the pack and run longer tubing. So how does this need to be more wireless?

    I’m not convinced this is a medical device – it’s a speech aid. It has no risk to life or well-being that I can see, any more than a Heil Talk Box does. (That’s Peter Frampton’s classic wah/talking guitar effect.) Granted, I’m also not sure how medical devices are classified.

    1. rahere says:

      The vocal system has three elements: an air pump (lungs), a variable-pitch vibrator (vocal cords) and a modulator system (bucal/nasal cavities). The problem the Cooper-Rand system addresses is the loss of the first two elements: the additional headache is that a balanced system needs a sound source central to the rear of the mouth.
      There are several possible ways of doing this, the 5/10 being a plastic tube. However, a blue-sky suggestion: wave-pattern reinforcement through, perhaps, the jawbone, to generate a tone the mouth can modulate.
      I think it might be possible to duck the air-pump question completely, as a skilled singer can still support a strong sound while circular-breathing completely disproportionately to the volume generated. OK, the sound will probably not be enough to be audible across a crowded room, but it will be a start for normal amplification.

      The heil box works the other way – the box contains a mike which supports a column of air in the plastic feed-pipe. This is then modulated by mixing with air from the vocal output of the operator singer.

  3. says:

    The bulk of the weight seems to be in the batteries so, yeah, lithium cells would help there. That might allow you to pack the whole thing into a device the size and shape of a phone headset. If you can do that, you get rid of the wires, which tend to wear out after a few months of continuous use.

    For practical purposes, you’d probably want to stick with the standard tubes. You could hide the portion of the tube that’s outside the mouth behind the headset, though, and use that space (along the jaw line) for pitch and volume controls. Capacitive touch controls should work there.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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