SpeechHero is an Augmentative & Alternative Communication app (AAC) designed for the iPad. The app was designed to be used without any training on AAC devices, and contains a native tutorial and integrated help system to guide users throughout the app with an easy to use interface. The app includes CoreUtterance©, which predicts likely tiles based on the last one entered. The app is loaded with thousands of such utterances generated from common English speech.
When you first start using SpeechHero it takes you through setting up the app step by step. Firstly you can choose which voice to use – there are currently six to choose from – four North American, two British and an Indian Dialect. Then it explains how you drag or tap on tiles to create phrases, and that you can use predictive mode, which will suggest tiles, based on the last tile tapped. You can also type in a phrase, and predictive mode works with typing too. Next it explains how you can edit your library – you can modify, favorite, rearrange or add new items. As well as being able to edit tiles you ca duplicate them and you can move them to different locations or in and out of folders. There is also an option to resize the tiles, which can be very useful if you just want to use a small number of tiles. There is also more information and videos available on SpeeechHero’s website.
In the app the home page is divided into folders such as People, actions, conversations, food and eating, I feel and I want. There are fourteen folders pre-loaded, and you can modify these as you wish. You can add new folders too, and you can choose what color to label the folder. All the tiles in the app are illustrated by symbolstix. The home screen also has a star in the upper right corner – tapping on this brings up your favorites, so you can use them in any screen. As you tap each tile that tile is spoken and to say the whole phrase you can either touch on any picture in the phrase bar or touch on the (written) sentence bar.
I really liked the layout of the home screen and found it simple to use and not too visually distracting especially for the preschool students that I tested it with. The favorites section made it quick and easy to use the app. I also really appreciated how easy it was to use the library. This made it much easier when I was working with the preschool students to modify it on the fly rather than being constrained to what the app contained. The ability to use the camera function to import pictures from my iPad or camera along with the ability to pull pictures from the web made it very easy to customize the library and add custom items to meet the needs of my preschool students. I really liked the voices in the app, and found they were not much different from other, more expensive apps. The addition of other accents is a nice touch and I would like to see a Hispanic dialect added as well and some more regional accents e.g. Australian. The developer is working with Acapela to add more voices at the next update.
The predictive mode is really useful when you switch this on a range of tiles comes up that you might want to use to start a conversation (or you can pick any from the screen you are in), For instance I, we, you, he, she, they, my, what, how, where, when, why, who, can, do, it and many more (starting with the commonest ones). Once you tap on one of those it gives you new suggestions e.g. choose “I” and for the next tiles it suggests want, think, am, don’t, need, like, will, got, have, was, did, know and many more options. Then “I want” it suggests to, a, my, something, some, water, the, milk, more, dad, food, mom etc. This is a really useful feature to make it easy to quickly create useful, frequently used phrases. In predictive mode you can also type the first letter of a word and it will bring up tile suggestions for that word. For instance if you had “I want a ” then typed the letter C it suggests cookie, cd, car, cry, c.e.o., cup, can, cap, cut and more. As you can add your own tiles to the library you can also add favorite items and your child and names of familiar people.
When you go into folders tabs come up between the sentence and the file folders, for the home page and any files or sub-files you are in. For example when working on greetings the tabs are home screen, conversation and greetings, tapping on any of these tabs is a shortcut back to that screen. One concern I had was that the size of the tabs is too small especially for little hands, I spoke to the developer and he is working changing this in the next update.
As a speech therapist, I felt the price for the app was good value compared to others on the market. I have worked with other apps that are far more expensive, but do not have some of the features that Speech Hero does. Some of the ways that Speech Hero differentiates itself for accessibility are by adding/subtracting tiles, the ability to add new folders, the use of the library, the ability to change items on the fly and the inclusion of the predictive mode.
This review was jointly written by Tracey who is a school based Speech Language Pathologist primarily working with preschool and elementary aged students, and by Mary who is one of The iMums and mum to a child with Apraxia.
SpeechHero AACby Andrew McKinney
Requirements: Compatible with iPadThirdGen, iPad 2 3G, iPad 2 WiFI, iPad WiFi, iPadThirdGen4G, iPadFourthGen4G, iPadMini4G, iPadFourthGen, iPad 3G, iPadMini
Size: 554.72 MB
Screenshots for iPad(Click to enlarge)
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