23 October 2018
The Oya Labs team showcases their Wordle prototype during the Baumhaus Baby Bazaar event in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong on Nov. 17. Photo: Oya Labs
The Oya Labs team showcases their Wordle prototype during the Baumhaus Baby Bazaar event in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong on Nov. 17. Photo: Oya Labs

A startup develops tool to aid language devt in toddlers

The early years of learning are deemed critical for language and cognitive development among kids. Bearing this in mind, Hong Kong-based startup Oya Labs, formerly known as Vox Technology, has developed a device that helps monitor a baby’s learning environment and offer guidance to parents to enhance their child-rearing skills.

The “Wordle” device, a type of early childhood development tracking tool, was an idea nurtured by Dr. Lamont Tang, who was motivated by his own experience when he and his wife had their first child several years ago.

“We were looking for evidence-based ways to help nurture [our child] and help [him] to develop,” said Tang, who is now the managing director of Oya Labs.

The number of words parents utter to their children, the number of words children hear from their parents, the quality of parent-child interaction, as well as richness of the language environment are among the crucial elements for a child’s language development, according to Tang, who obtained a degree in neuroscience from Stanford University.

“Oya” means “parents” in Japanese. The company was founded as both a learning monitoring platform and a community for parents who look for evidence-based ways to maximize their child’s potential, and use accurate tools to monitor the unique way the child is growing.

Wordle works by monitoring the quality of interactions between parents and children. Emerging as a hardware and mobile app, the combination takes data through the hardware and reflects results in its mobile app.

The product is capable of counting the number of words a baby speaks in a day, as well as the number of conversations between the infant and the parent. Apart from taking the quantifiable data, Wordle can also monitor the content and emotion in the parent’s speech and offer corresponding parent advice in the mobile app.

Wordle currently supports eight languages: English, Putonghua, Cantonese, French, Hindi, Polish, Japanese and Spanish. The product is expected to be launched in the market in late spring next year.

The startup was supported by venture capital investors including SOSV, Johnson & Johnson Innovation and HAX Accelerator. It won the First Prize at the DBS Social Innovation Challenge last week.

Mainland China, Hong Kong and North America are among the company’s target markets. In Hong Kong, the company currently maintains partnerships with pre-nursery schools, educational centers, and non-governmental or nonprofit organizations such as YWCA.

Oya Labs came off the Elevator Pitch Competition 2017 organized by the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation on Nov. 2 as the first runner-up out of 100 startup finalists around the globe.

“We got good comments and suggestions from the judges that provide helpful guidelines for our fundraising process. Specifically, the short format of the pitch itself and being in the actual elevator required us to be very clear about the value proposition of our product and the investment potential,” noted Tang.

The accolade reinforced the firm’s resolve on the mission of raising awareness and channeling resources into early childhood education, he added.

“[It] was also motivating for the whole team!”

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The birth of his first child motivated Dr. Lamont Tang, managing director of Oya Labs, to develop Wordle. Photo: Oya Labs

EJ Insight writer

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