Wednesday, October 20, 2010

IPad for Speech

In January I blogged about my friend, Pete Kinney, and his voice prosthesis. Although the device sounds like a robot in an old Sci-Fi movie, it does allow him to talk after having a total laryngectomy.
Last week at a church meeting he amazed everyone by using a different device that allows him to speak in a normal voice. It's called .... an iPad!
Besides amazing the people at the meeting by saying things in a normal voice, he also amused them by switching to a female one to show what the iPad could do.
No, Pete can't connect it to his throat or mouth and talk through it, but he has set up lists of things he frequently needs to say and placed them in folders for the locations where they're likely to be used. When appropriate, he opens the folder, clicks on what he wants to say, and the iPad reads the words out loud. If he there's time, Pete can also type in specific things and have the iPad speak them.
I haven't heard him use it yet, but he probably has folders for his job, home, and church and maybe he has set up folders for frequent situations within those. For example, in a finance meeting folder he might have phrases like, "Where does that fit in the budget?" or "Can we afford it?" At home he might tell his teenage daughter, "Be home on time," or "Ask your mother" and when talking to his wife he might click on "I love you" or "Yes, dear." Maybe he also has a folder for things that might be said anywhere such as, "Hi," "Excuse me" and "Thank you."
While the iPad can't replace the prosthetic, it gives Pete the capability of sounding like other people a lot of the time. It's lightweight so it's easy to carry around and he also uses the other features it provides.
I'll bet the people who designed the iPad never thought it would be used in this way.

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