Project Converse is aimed at improving in-person expressive communication for individuals with complex communication needs (CCN) who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Individuals who use these technologies face significant life-inhibiting barriers when taking part in the most human of communication forms – conversations.

Our mission is to overturn antiquated perspectives on conversation involving AAC technologies and the institutional barriers preventing innovation and high-risk research by developing a highly interdisciplinary research center to research and develop conversant AAC technologies.

We will employ a research-informed approach, based on social interaction, to design and develop technologies that support children in learning AAC and bridge the AAC-interaction gap for adults, while bringing evidence-based technological solutions to consumers, family members, researchers, and the entire AAC industry.

We plan to bring together an interdisciplinary research team to reinvent AAC to support face-to-face conversation. We will research and develop AAC technologies with the express purpose of facilitating social engagement, mutual understanding and personal empowerment, by attacking these problems on multiple fronts, including:

  • Researching the interactional problems besetting persons who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).
  • Extending our current research efforts to include children and their early learning of AAC.
  • Using the results of these investigations to inform our design of conversant AAC technologies – that is, AAC devices that enable people with complex communication needs to actively engage their partners in effective and efficient face-to-face conversation.
  • Creating an interdisciplinary and inclusive environment for working on conversant AAC issues. This would include hiring individuals who use AAC to speak to contribute their ideas and experiences towards the development of conversant AAC technologies.
  • Using this unique context to train the next generation of researchers and engineers to use our interaction research methods in their future work in academia and industry, while modeling the kind of shift toward innovation that is required to keep the field moving forward for decades to come.

The overall goals of the project are to develop a set of effective conversational technologies and to successfully transfer these innovations into the AAC technology market. The culmination of research and development in the first two years will, to a large degree, drive what happens over the subsequent years of the grant.

Project Converse is funded by a grant from the Engelke Family Foundation.

Research Track

Despite advances in technology, in-person interactions mediated by AAC remain highly problematic. Through a series of investigations, the research track will deepen understanding of the strategies individuals employ, and the composition delays, breakdowns, and miscommunications that frequently occur, during in-person interactions that are mediated by AAC. 

Development Track

The development track will facilitate an interdisciplinary and inclusive approach to design. Our goal is to use the evidence gained from our research and contemporary work in conversation and interaction analysis to prototype and test potential solutions to problems faced by augmented speakers when trying to stay in-time during conversation. We will be collaborating with augmented speakers, scientists, engineers, designers, artists to bring these creations to light.  


Our plans for research and development dissemination are front-facing and open-source. In addition to traditional dissemination outputs, we plan to share our current research progress through our project blogs located on this website. This will include summaries of our weekly activities and progress as well as research and development results.

Project Converse plans to develop and test solutions in a flexible, online, open-source interface that will accelerate research and development and make solutions broadly available for further research and development by other teams and use by augmented speakers.