Voice Recognition Software – What is it any good for?
When the first true voice recognition software (VR) packages started to become available in the 1990s they offered the possibility of increased productivity by virtue of faster-than-typing dictate capabilities, and the potential to operate a computer almost solely with spoken commands. The potential for the disabled to be able to access computing power, as well as giving businesses a huge boost in productivity was obvious, but the reality of the low-quality products failed to live up to expectations. The dream was actually bit of a nightmare with retyping mistakes a routine event.
Translation software Becomes Reliable
The programming structure and database construction set up for VR lent their architecture to a new and highly accurate translation software that was capable of the translation of languages quickly and easily. But the correct use of structure, rules, and idiom in multiple languages is significantly more complex than resolving spoken words and printing them on a page, and these systems too require the highest quality peripherals to ensure that linguistics are understood and correctly translated. It is an issue when carrying out casual translation, but becomes a much greater issue when being used professionally such as in legal or technical applications.
Now, twenty years later, voice recognition and translation software packages have been honed to become an effective and usable tools for business and the disabled alike. Commercial VR and translation applications have become accurate programs with huge databases covering words, phrases and syntax combinations encompassing most of English and almost every other language in the World. Crucially, however, the hardware needed to interface the programs had also increased in quality, and therefore accuracy, over the same time period, and the two pronged approach increased the sensitivity and value of the programs enormously.
However, modern headsets with built-in microphones can be bulky pieces of equipment but they are necessary to get the most accurate delivery to your voice recognition software and it is essential that they are kept in good condition, so that means that they need to be stored and transported in appropriate way to ensure that they remain free from damage. Transporting technology like that around safely and equally as importantly, comfortably for the user becomes a bit of a task, but the range from Trabasack, makes it light work of all the extra gear.
Transporting Issues? No problem.
The Trabasack range go far beyond the normal model used for computer cases and are designed to be used in challenging situations that require specials features, such as those found with wheelchair users. This situation in particular offers particular problems as the user has to have everything with them, and be able to put it all together and operate it in a small area such as their lap. The architecture of the Trabasack Curve and Trabasack Curve Connect Trabasack products promotes such use, having purposely curved edges that allow the bag to sit comfortably on the lap, creating a sturdy surface for the computer to be rested on, and with well-lined equipment pockets for headsets and speakers, anyone can carry all the items they need around safely, in comfort and without risk of damage. For those needing more carrying capability, the Trabasack Max is a very high quality product with plenty of room for equipment.
But the Trabasack range are equally as useful to the business traveller, who may find that they need to carry equipment for VR and translation software onto aircraft and use it in the confined space of an aircraft seat. Additionally, they may need an ever higher specification headset to allow crystal-clear pick-up in low voice situations; neither the traveller nor the other passengers want to be in a position of having constant dictation being heard!! Once again, the Trabasack bags offer a firm work surface in a small package that is small enough for even the most room-conscious airlines, while offering complete safety in transporting expensive equipment.
Whether you suffer from some disability or not, the range of bags from Trabasack are more than capable of dealing with the equipment that you need to take with you to get the most out of your voice recognition and translation software.
Mike Parsons works for Kwintessential.co.uk a translation company who deal in Localization, Translation and interpretation. He enjoys writing in his spare time and gets the opportunity to travel a lot in his work hours.
Sensory Communication – Sensory Stories
Hello everyone, my name is Joanna Grace and I write sensory stories for children with profound and multiple learning disabilities. I’m currently running a project on Kickstarter to create a set of these stories that families could use – please check it out, we only have a few days left!
Sensory stories have many things to offer children, one of which is the opportunity to develop communication. I’ll explain, but first I should tell you what a sensory story is!
What Are Sensory Stories?
Sensory stories are constructed out of a combination of sensory experiences and text.
I aim to write stories in less than ten sentences. You might think you can’t get much of a story into so little text, but think of how much a poet can convey in a haiku, and think of the adage a ‘A picture speaks a thousand words’ and you’ve a start on imagining what could be in a sensory story.
I seek out rich sensory experiences to put into my stories, these needn’t be expensive things, it’s just a matter of viewing the world creatively and spotting things that would make a good experience. This can get you a few funny looks as you sniff things in shops, or feel them, but it’s a lot of fun. I aim to put at least one experience from each of the five famous senses into a story (did you have seven senses?)
Why sensory stimulation?
Your brain needs sensory input in order to develop and lay down neural pathways. An able bodied child can access a wide range of sensory stimuli for themselves, a child with physical disabilities will need help to access a range of stimuli. Sensory stories are a fun way of providing this support.
Communication Support for Children with Additional Needs
Sensory stories can support communication in children with profound and multiple learning disabilities in a number of ways:
Researchers have found that some of the passivity they observe in individuals with profound and multiple learning disabilities is not down to the disability itself but to a learned helplessness that
leaves the individual disengaged with the world. When you think about it, it is easy to see how, if you couldn’t easily access the world around you, you might begin to see it as not relevant to you and turn inwards seeking stimulation from within. In some cases this can also include self harm as a means of gaining stimulation. By introducing sensory experiences to individuals with profound and multiple learning disabilities you can encourage them to become interested in objects and people. This is a great first step towards communication.
Story telling is a wonderful form of communication that our ancestors enjoyed and that future generations will enjoy. It’s a way we bond ourselves together and form our identities. By sharing a story in a sensory way you can include someone who accesses the world in a purely sensory way in the experience of story telling. Aspects of the process of telling the story also support individuals in learning skills involved in communication, for example the turn taking nature of sharing the story: that I say the words, and then you experience the stimuli, echoes the turn taking nature of conversation: it’s your turn to speak, my turn to listen, then my turn to speak, your time to listen.
People who care for individuals with profound and multiple learning disabilities try hard to personalise that care in a way that the individual would choose for themselves were they able to express themselves. Choices are made on our best discernment of what they individual with profound and multiple learning disabilities would want. Through sharing a sensory story with someone and noting their reactions carefully over time you can learning things like: they prefer the smell of lemons to the smell of roses, they enjoy the bang of a drum more than the ringing of a bell. These small insights can be used to personalise their care in a way that will be meaningful to them, for example by purchasing citrus shower gel rather than a floral one, or by using a drum as an alarm clock rather than a buzzer. Though small these things are immensely valuable to a person’s quality of life.
Supporting Joanna’s Sensory Story Project
I want sensory stories to be available for families to share at home, that’s my motivation for the project. The project ends at 5:22am EDT on May 21st, please have a look before then. In exchange for backing the project you receive a reward of your choosing; there are many things on offer including sensory stories themselves. Come and join us.
To read more about Joanna’s Sensory Story Project and for further information on how to get involved in her Kickstarter project, click here to visit the Sensory Play Tray blog.
Sensory Stories are vital for reaching out to children with additional needs, especially those with communication issues who find it hard to express their understanding of the world around them through speech. Technology has progressed in leaps and bounds over the past decade, and now provides children with communication issues a new and immediate way to express their needs and wants through touch screen interaction, rather than relying on speech.
After you’ve checked out Joanna’s Kickstarter project, why not have a look through our informative posts that cover some fantastic apps to aid communication and our compendium of iPad apps that use augmentative and alternative communication to aid self-expression?
Following on from part 4 in our series of blog posts covering the extensive and ever-growing range of AAC apps available for iPad, we have a collection of symbol-based applications that are designed to aid your child with their communication, without relying on verbal prompts.
Each of the apps chosen for our AAC Apps blog compendium were individually assessed and compiled by Jane Farral – a speech pathologist and special educator with over 20 years of practical knowledge in the field of disability and assistive technology. Jane is highly experienced in the teaching of both adults and children with varying abilities, and holds a Masters in Special Education, where she concentrated on literacy acquisition in children and adults without speech.
Gabby Tabs was developed by the parents of a child whom is non-verbal autistic, to provide an app with an in-depth understanding of the methods required to allow a parent to communicate with their child with AAC needs. The emphasis of this iPad app is to provide carers with an immediately easy-to-use, “ready-to-go” interface, filled with pre-installed commonly used symbols and audio. The simple and brightly-coloured interface of this app will immediately appeal to younger children, and hopefully encourage them to communicate their wants and needs with ease.
The GoTalk Now app has been created by an educational company with over 25 years experience of creating tools specifically for AAC. The app allows you to create templates or “books” of information directly related to your child’s lifestyle and needs, using voice recording, text-to-speech, video and either Imagine Symbols or your own, user-uploaded images. Your completed books can also be shared online or stored online for use no matter what your location, as long as an internet connection is available.
The Grace – Picture Exchange app comes is a highly commended AAC app that won both the 2010 Irish Web Award and the United Nations World Summit Mobile Award. The app focuses on simple a picture exchange system to allow children and adults with autism to communicate with ease. The user can select images to create sentences, which are then used to encourage the child to attempt their own vocalisation. This intuitive app comes with a basic collection of images with the function for uploading your own, and also supports the iPad’s 3-axis “gyroscope” to allow even further interactivity.
The I Click I Talk iPad app features some unique technical add-ons that are generally unavailable on other AAC apps, most specifically the ability to monitor and analyse your child’s usage data and statistics. It can help the carer to monitor the frequency each image has been activated, or whether a child prefers photograph symbols over cartoon-style images. This is an excellent tool for helping to create a truly individual AAC aid for your child, allowing you to cater to their specific visual tastes and interests.
The iAssist Communicator app is aimed at children on the autistic spectrum whom are more cognitively challenged – therefore the app moves away from the use of abstract, cartoon-like symbols, and relies purely on photo-realistic images for communication. As with many of the AAC apps we have featured so far, iAssist was created by a parent, therefore usability and the ability to customise categories has been taken well into account. This app comes pre-installed with 240 photos and voice-recordings, and also with every purchase made of this dynamic app, 10% of the cost will be donated to non-profit autism organisations.
We hope that these intuitive AAC apps provide both yourself and your child with a fun and interesting communication experience, and to provide your child with an even more carefree learning experience, why not consider the new Trabasack Media Mount? The Trabasack Media Mount is a flexible, multi purpose mounting device, useful for supporting iPads and other tablet computers at just the right angle, leaving your child’s hands free for touch screen interaction.
The Trabasack Media Mount is made of soft hook and loop receptive material with a velcro strip along one side. This means that you can twist it to any shape and it will stick to itself, and can be secured to the Trabasack Curve Connect lap tray with ease.
In our recent posts covering some of the best AAC apps currently on offer for both iPad and iPhone, we have featured contemporary and easy-to-use AAC aids that we hope will provide both you and your child with a modern and fun way to communicate via touch screen technology.
In part 4 of our AAC iPad app guide we have yet more innovative titles as provided by Jane Farral – a speech pathologist and special educator with over 20 years of practical knowledge in the field of disability and assistive technology. Jane is highly experienced in the teaching of both adults and children with varying abilities, and holds a Masters in Special Education, where she concentrated on literacy acquisition in children and adults without speech.
The Expressionist iPhone app comes highly acclaimed by schools and therapists world-wide, for providing an intuitive and easy-to-use aid in helping children learn about self-expression and emotions. Each scene includes a cartoon character of a little boy, who’s easy to understand facial expressions and gestures inspire children to imitate and then utilise for expressing their own wants and needs. This straight-forward app includes a wealth of over 120 commonly used expressions, which are organised in to several different categories, including; greetings, feelings, senses, activities, questions and more.
Expressive is a Smarty Symbol based app for both iPad and iPhone that helps those with communication disorders (such as autism and apraxia) express their wants and needs via a powerful yet easy to grasp interface. This app has been specifically designed for ease of use, and little to no previous programming experience is necessary to get started with the app. The app includes over 600 pre-installed symbols and allows you to upload your own personal images and record audio, to provide a truly bespoke AAC aid, to fit your child’s personal needs.
Flashables is a flash card style app that utilises the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) to help children to communicate via images rather than words. The symbols are designed so that the child chooses their desired object (food, toys or activity for example) and it is then up to the parent or caregiver to instantly provide the child with the expressed object, helping to reinforce the understanding of cause and effect for children whom struggle to communicate via verbal prompts.
The Gabby iPad app is a fun and informal app that allows children and adults with learning difficulties to express themselves easily via images and audio. It includes an abundance of features of tailoring the app experience to fit your child’s specific needs, and also includes an admin setting to make sure little hands can’t modify or change important settings.
Thanks to leaps in technology, providing children with smart and intuitive AAC aids is easier than ever before, and Trabasack understand that usability is all-important in assuring your child has a relaxed and fun learning experience. That’s why Trabasack have created the new Media Mount – a mounting device that can be used with electronic equipment such as iPads, tablets and slates, to ensure they remain steady and upright whilst in use. The soft hook and loop receptive material, along with a Velcro strip attached to one side, means that it fits perfectly onto the Trabasack Connect tray surface and can also be manipulated easily into many different shapes to achieve the right angle and hold for the object you’re trying to support.
Simple Yet Intuitive and Easy-to-Use AAC Apps for iPad
Welcome to part three in our series of blogs covering many of the useful and innovative iPad AAC apps as researched and compiled by Jane Farral – a speech pathologist and special educator with over 20 years of practical knowledge in the field of disability and assistive technology. Jane is highly experienced in the teaching of both adults and children with varying abilities, and holds a Masters in Special Education, where she concentrated on literacy acquisition in children and adults without speech.
The Communicate Mate iPad and iPhone app is a very basic and therefore simple to use communication tool for children, with useful selection of symbols and sentences that once activated via touch, are spoken aloud via a pre-recorded human female voice. Once this app is downloaded and installed, Communicate works entirely offline, therefore it does not require an internet connection or 3G connection to function.
Connect Cards utilises the online image hosting website Picasa to allow users to create their own personalised communication tool for children. Images are firstly uploaded and tagged on the Picasa website, and then the app syncs with the user’s online account, to populate one of three card categories (food, drink and activities). This allows the child to touch the “I want” icon, then activate a symbol relating to their need – Connect Cards will then provide the correct sentence aloud in speech.
The DIME iPad app is a collection of 5 AAC tools that provide an intuitive aid for helping your child to express their needs. The main feature of the DIME app is the “Communicator” – a tool that creates sentences using 3 language elements; person, verb and compliment. The other tools included with this iPad app are “I Want/I Am” – a simplified version of the Communicator that allows children to immediately express their needs. The “Clock” function is a fun way of helping your child understand the concept of time. Choose a task and then start the timer; the aim is for your child to complete their task before the animated snail finishes eating their tasty leaf. Lastly there is a “Blackboard” function, which provides a creative on-screen play area for drawing, and “Album” – an interactive gallery of pre-installed symbols and a place to view your own personally uploaded images.
The Discover MyVoice for iOS iPad app has one main aim – to provide a simple and easy to set-up AAC app for caregivers and children alike. Perhaps an app for those whom struggle to understand the plethora of options and excess date input associated with other apps; the Discover My Voice app allows you to quickly and easily use your own images to create categories, and then either attach a recording of your own voice or allow the app to utilise text-to-speech to provide audio.
Easy Speak is a powerful AAC iPad app that comes with more than 800 pre-installed symbols with corresponding audio, to provide your child with the ability to express an extensive range of emotions, needs/wants, actions, questions and more. The Easy Speak app is fully customisable, providing the user the ability to upload personal, familiar images into user-defined categories.
If you’re looking for new and innovative ways of helping your child to play or learn via the iPad, the Trabasack Media Mount is the latest addition to the Trabasack family of ingenious AAC aids. The Trabasack Media Mount is a flexible and multi purpose mounting device, perfect for supporting tablet computers such as iPads. The malleable mount can be twisted and shaped to provide the correct angle for any device, support for wrists and even to create a boundary or target area for switch users.
The Trabasack Media Mount is made of soft hook and loop receptive material with a velcro strip along one side. This means that you can twist it to any shape and it will stick to itself!
Part 2 – Autism AAC Apps for Children and Young Adults
Following on from part 1 of our compendium of blogs covering interactive iPad apps for AAC, we have yet more innovative teaching aids that will help to ease difficulties with communication via a fun and uncomplicated interface.
Augie AAC is a modern and portable communication app specifically designed for those with AAC needs. The iPad app lets you organise information into two categories; home and school, where everything from schedules, vocabulary and tasks can be arranged for quick and easy access and usability. This voice output app comes with a library of high-frequency vocabulary, which covers both the home and school environment, and can be user-defined to provide even more freedom and independence of communication.
AutisMate is a unique and fully customisable communication app is specifically aimed at children and young people with Autism. The app allows you to create “scenes” of familiar family, home and school settings by uploading photographs of surroundings, which can then be layered with interactive prompts matched to the user’s current location. The unique feature of this AAC app is its ability to track the user’s location using GPS, and thus updates the current displayed “scene” to match your child’s environment. The interactive prompts can include text-to-speech, video or static images, to help provide a fun way for your child to connect with their surroundings.
Baluh is a simple iPad app for creating communication pages using either the pre-installed 400+ ARASAAC symbols or user uploaded images. You can create category pages which can include 20 options, and then each option page can include 4 interactive communication buttons.
Click n’ Talk is another simplified and easy-to-use communication aid that allows caregivers or children to create photo albums on specific subjects, using their own photographs. Each photo can have text and voice attached with ease, to provide a fun way of revisiting past events or helping to educate about everyday activities.
The ComApp.i3 iPad app is a fun, bright and attractive AAC aid that allows children to quickly and easily communicate basic everyday needs and wants. The icons and interface are incredibly child-friendly, with a simple navigation that will help children express their needs almost immediately, without prior demonstration or experience with the app.
These AAC apps were chosen and appraised by Jane Farral, a speech pathologist and special educator with over 20 years of practical knowledge in the field of disability and assistive technology. Jane is highly experienced in the teaching of both adults and children with varying abilities, and holds a Masters in Special Education, where she concentrated on literacy acquisition in children and adults without speech.
Trabasack are pleased to announce their newest communication device mounting aid– the Trabasack Media Mount; a multi-purpose, flexible mounting device, ideal for use on help support mobile electronic devices or as Ipads or other tablet computers when people are seated. The Trabasack Media Mount can be used in conjunction with the Connect Curve lap desk bag to ensure iPads, books or even remote controls and bottles remain in a sturdy position, and at the desired angle for use; it can be easily twisted into shape to hold almost anything upright, with the Velcro along one side ensuring the device remains firmly in place.
Part 1 – Themes, Speech Sets and Flash Cards
This is the first blog post in a series covering some fantastic and innovative augmentative and alternative communication iPad and iPhone apps to aid communication, provide a stimulating educational experience, helping adults and encouraging interaction in children.
These AAC apps were compiled by Jane Farrall – a speech pathologist and special educator with over 20 years of practical knowledge in the field of disability and assistive technology. Jane is highly experienced in the teaching of both adults and children with varying abilities, and holds a Masters in Special Education, where she concentrated on literacy acquisition in children and adults without speech.
2CanTalk The 2CanTalk iPhone app allows you to create a catalogue of “Themes”; a bespoke picture board of images with corresponding sounds, to fit a specific location or event. Create themes for almost every situation, from your or your child’s everyday needs to a trip to the park; simply take photographs using your iPhone of familiar objects and add your own voice recording and text label to each image.
For example; if you require a “want/need” theme – take representative photographs of your child’s most common activities (bathroom, snack, drink, sleep etc) then allow you to pick from the images on screen to communicate. Each theme can include a subsection, therefore if you were to choose “Snack”, you would then be presented with further on screen options such as banana, toast, biscuits, or any specific snack item you choose to include.
AACSpeechBuddy is an iPad app that can be used in conjunction with aacspeech.com to build bespoke image and speech sets using either the 2000+ provided Mulberry symbols or your own photographs and one of 6 text-to-speech voices. The app comes with several demo speech sets included, to give you an idea where to start, then you can create an online account to manage your bespoke speech sets which can then be loaded on to the app. The online creation feature is perfect for sharing or downloading speech sets made by other users, friends or teachers.
Ablah is a simplified iPad app that allows you to create categories of images, which can then be browsed by either swiping-through or viewed as a timed slideshow. This app relies mostly on your own uploaded images rather than a library of pre-installed icons, and utilises recorded speech rather than text-to-speech.
Aeir Talk is a stylish and bold Flash Card style iPad app to help increase your child’s vocabulary and teach spelling. The flash cards can be split into several sections, including verbs or nouns, and using your own photographs of familiar household items, such as food and toys, you can create informative yet immediately recognisable flash cards to appeal to your child. This app also allows you to record your own voice and create cards to fit any object or activity you desire.
The Answers:YesNo app was specifically designed and tailored to help a young man with non-verbal Autism and motor planning issues, communicate his wants and needs with those around him. This app is simplified to just two large, colour-coordinated “Yes” and “No” buttons, to provide straightforward and immediate communication. However, you can also create custom button pages to differentiate between two different subject matters (such as “cat” or “dog”, or “hello” or “goodbye”) and you can record your own voice for each image with ease.
We will be following-up this blog post with another selection of useful AAC iPad apps, as well as more information about our new, innovative Trabasack Media Mount – a flexible and multi purpose mounting device that can be wrapped around objects to provide the perfect angle, ideal for supporting iPads when in use on the Trabasack Curve Connect tray top.