In Lingraphica, a product line built for survival

Real life drives Lingraphicare’s decisions

By: Diane Landis Hackett
   PRINCETON — Imagine arriving at your favorite diner with an urge for a hamburger with the works but not being able to ask for exactly what you want because a stroke has robbed you of the ability to verbalize even your simplest desires.
   Now picture this: When the waitress arrives, you take out your Lingraphica laptop computer and touch a symbol of a hamburger on the screen.
   Then you select condiments: you touch a picture of mayonnaise, mustard and a single pickle — exactly what you were hoping to eat.
   This is one of three real life situations that is depicted on a mini documentary about how Lingraphicare America Inc., headquartered in Princeton, helps stroke survivors re-learn simple everyday words and phrases that most of us take for granted.
   The users suffer from aphasia, which affects more than 100,000 people per year in this country and robs them of the ability to communicate, or — at times — even understand language.
   "This is beyond survival for these people," said Andrew Gomory, a Princeton resident and the company’s president and CEO. "It let’s them become human again."
   The computer, a dedicated Apple laptop, is equipped with 2,500 images created by Lingraphicare that depict places, rooms, objects, people and activities to help jar the memory of the aphasia sufferer.
   When a user chooses an image on the screen, the computer speaks the name of the image.
   For verbs, such as vacuuming, driving, walking or running, animation is added to clarify their meaning.
   The Lingraphica computer also depicts such feelings as frustration, sadness, pain and joy, which is particularly helpful for aphasia sufferers whose emotions may be locked inside, as well.
   Lingraphicare has a staff of 12 people, including a sales staff that trains the individual users in their homes along with their therapists. What is particularly critical toward recovering language is that the computer provides unlimited practice time to the user who is afflicted with aphasia.
   "The computer is the most patient teacher," says Monica Lange, a marketing consultant for Lingraphicare. "A human may not have the time or patience to teach a person to talk again. Even therapists may not have the time."
   Another feature of the system is that clients can record and store sentences to be played back at the appropriate time.
   For instance, one user was not able to let his doctor know what days he could make an appointment. With the help of a therapist, he recorded the times on his Lingraphica and played it back at the doctor’s office at his next appointment.
   Lingraphicare is located in a light-filled office at 20 Nassau St. Mr. Gomory commuted to Palo Alto, Calif., for a year when he first became president and then moved the company headquarters to Princeton in 2005.
   A staff of seven remains in California, including two members of the sales staff, a programmer and technician, and insurance coordinators who work with the insurance companies on behalf of the user.
   Mr, Gomory, who commutes to California one week per month, says it is rather easy these days to have two offices.
   The company uses remote desktop sharing, phone and e-mail to conduct business with staff and clients.
   Mr. Gomory seems to have found the perfect work situation in Princeton. He has the freedom to conduct informal meetings in local coffee shops or on campus if he is so moved, and he works in the same town where he lives. In addition, he says, he is pleased to run a small business that helps others.
   "I wanted to do something that was good for people. I enjoy helping people," says Mr. Gomory, whose zeal for his product is best shown when he is demonstrating the updated graphics he has created.
   Ms. Lange, who worked as a freelance filmmaker for years, created the company’s promotional video, which is more akin to a mini-documentary, for Lingraphicare in 2005. She has remained with the company as its marketing consultant ever since.
   "I like it here, because there is not a big company attitude," Ms. Lange says. "We just get down to the essence of the business."
   Mr. Gomory and Ms. Lange recognize their product has a niche market. And Ms. Lange is set on getting the word out about its benefits. She said that one exciting development is that the product will be featured at the national conference of the American Association of the Advancement of Science this year.
   This conference is a particularly prestigious event, she said, and one of Lingraphicare’s founders, a scientist, will present the results of their work over the past 15 years.
   Thus far, the company’s marketing strategy seems to be successful. Revenues at the company grew more than 70 percent in 2004 and an additional 50 percent in 2005. That’s largely due to increased marketing, as well as product improvements, Mr. Gomory says.
The company provides free trials of the Lingraphica computer. For more information, call (888) APHASIA or (888) 274-2742 or visit its Web site.