Let the app do the talking.
Added on Monday 14 September 15
It’s not that often I am approached to try out software. It was really interesting back in March 2014 David Niemeijer the CEO of AssistiveWare approached me about trying out his AAC app Proloquo4Text.
I had used his symbol based app Proloquo2Go in the past and I was invited to provide some feedback on his latest adaption.
AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Comunicarion (or Assistive and Augmentative Communication if you prefer).In other words, technology which enables a computer to talk for you.
For me, it means I can type a message and press a button for it to be read aloud.
My speech is not always easy. I started loosing speech for long periods when I was a teenager. When I am under periods of stress I often find it very difficult to get words to come out.
The longest period of being non verbal was when I was homeless and living in a hotel. It took about 7 months before I regained speech once I moved into supported living. I met my current partner during this period. I have freelance web development clients who have never heard my voice.
My favourite analogy is to imagine the ability to speak as a large flywheel.
When it is spinning it takes little energy to keep it spinning. But if is left to spin down getting it to spin back up again is very energy intensive and best down gradually.
When I loose the ability to speak, the best approach is to just carry on as normal and wait for it to come back. I generally get sounds come back first (onomatopoeia), followed by individual words and then eventually phrases.
When I can’t speak I feel much calmer and less effected by anxiety.
Proloquo4Text serves 3 different needs for me.
It gives me confidence, it helps me out when I can’t talk, and it’s holds a bank of useful information I may need in an emergency.
It gives me confidence when I am unable to talk by simply being there and being reliable. Knowing I always have a voice with me no matter what happens is both useful and reassuring. Ironically, this confidence factor helps means I don’t need to use the app because I don’t loose my voice as often.
Earlier this year I traveled to the USA to give a talk at the CSUN conference. If it wasn’t for this app I do not think i would have been able to make the trip. We used it heavily.
Secondly, when I can’t talk the app is useful because it gives me a voice. While i may not be able to contribute much I can contribute something. I can be heard.
The ability to be heard is huge. I have used the app a few time when my speech has gone suddenly. The ability to ask for help has been essential.
Finally I can preload proloquo4text with information. So my app contains all my important information ready to hand in an emergency.
When I use the app I only hit the speak button about half the time. Often I just show my screen to my friends so they can read the message.
This is how I use to use my Nokia E61. Using the draft text message feature.
I like the interface of the app. Even when I am not using the speech portion it works well over using the notes app because;
Another neat trick is that the app can interact with Bluetooth audio. While in the USA this became extremely useful as I could use it too chat with my friend who was driving the car via the cars sound system. When j pressed play for speech It would automatically turn down the music. Play my speech and then turn the music back up. Awesome.
The main area I would like to see improvement is performance and battery life.
Using proloquo4text my phone is on all the time and the battery life plummets to 2-3 hours.
Proloquo4Text can also be extremely slow to open.
When I need my voice I often need it right NOW and waiting 5-10 seconds for the app to load on my iPhone 5S can be painful. I would love if the app could load to a basic usage mode so I can start typing immediately. Perhaps this could be achieved with the new 3D touch API.
I really like proloquo4text it really helps. This review was prompted because I’ve not had my voice for a few weeks now and I’ve been absolutely reliant on this app to keep me interacting with the world.
All in it is remarkable. Due to this one app the most difficult challenge I face can be easily overcome. It’s not a cheap app. But for me it is absolutely priceless.
Update: I emailed AssitiveWare to ask permission to use the header image which they kindly granted. They also mentioned the performance and battery issue are not something they have seen before so they are going to investigate for me. That’s really impressive support. Will update again when if we resolve the issues
(PS: If your interested in other app I use, check out the blog post where I talk about the apps I use)