Bonnie Cha

Recent Posts by Bonnie Cha

Proloquo2Go App Gives Children With Speech Impairments a Voice

For many of us, tech gadgets like smartphones and tablets are a source of entertainment, a way to check email and social networks, maybe even make a phone call or two. But for others, they’re helping to do much more than that.

Proloquo2Go is an iOS app that gives those with speech difficulties the tools to communicate with others using text-to-speech technology. And the app’s latest update is giving children an even bigger voice.

Proloquo, which means “speak out loud” in Latin and was created by AssistiveWare in April 2009, allows users to tap images and preloaded phrases or type out words to compose sentences, then translates the text into speech for the other person to hear.

It’s often used by adults and children diagnosed with autism, cerebal palsy or Down syndrome, as well as stroke victims, but previously the only voice options for children were adult voices or those electronically altered to sound like a child’s voice. Now the app offers real children’s voices.

“About 60 percent of our users are under the age of 12 years old, so it only made sense for us to offer real children’s voices,” said David Niemeijer, founder and CEO of AssistiveWare, in a phone interview with AllThingsD.

The American children’s voices, called Josh and Ella, were recorded by actual children over the course of several days and include recordings for 14,000 words to match the preloaded images. (Two British children’s voices, Harry and Rosie, are also available.) The more natural-sounding voices can help children develop their own voice and create a more intimate experience for the parents.

Words and phrases are organized in a way that are conducive to natural speech, with two main categories: Basic Communication and Core Word.

Basic Communication is designed for one- or two-word phrases to get a basic message across. Meanwhile, Core Word provides access to the most frequently used words in the English language and additional vocabulary for full sentences.

Proloquo2Go works on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Niemeijer said the company has no plans to offer an Android or Windows Phone app.

“We would rather focus our energy on creating the best product on one platform rather than spending resources on creating multiple versions,” said Niemeijer. He added that 70 percent of their customers bought the iPad just to use the application.

However, AssistiveWare will license the voices to other developers beginning in 2013, so they can use them to create other apps and communication devices.

Proloquo2Go costs $189.99 and is available now through the iTunes store. The app might seem pricey but it’s a lot less expensive than dedicated communication devices, which cost thousands of dollars. If you already own the app, the new voices are available for free through a software update.

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