VowelViz Pro by SmartPalate International -Review

VowelViz Pro is a unique speech app that provides visual feedback to help shape vowel sounds. The app was created by SmartPalate International, LLC.
The targeting of vowel sounds can be a difficult endeavor as there really is no precise way to instruct a student in tongue placement or shape of the vocal tract for correct production. The production of vowels and vocalic /r/ has always been heavily dependent on the self-awareness of auditory feedback, until now. This innovative app provides the visual feedback that can facilitate the production of these sounds through real-time response.

iPhone Screenshot 4Using the device’s microphone, it maps out the user’s vowel production onto a grid called the vowel quadrilateral. The vowel quadrilateral is a visual representation of the position of the tongue during the production of vowels. The grid is designed to show the tongue’s height (high or low) in relation to its position from front to back of the mouth. For example, the top left quadrant contains the high front vowels /i:/ and /I/, while the bottom right includes the low back vowel /a:/.

The main screen allows you to select either vowels or vocalic /r/ to practice. There is also the option to “get training” where you can enter your email to receive tips and tutorial videos. I highly recommend watching these videos to ensure success when utilizing this app.

After a target vowel is selected, an auditory model of the sound can be played by touching the speaker in the top left of the screen. A flashcard with a word containing the target vowel can also be shown at the bottom. The student attempts to match the target sound by getting the orange tracking ball to land within the highlighted oval area on the grid. The mapping of the vowel is done in real-time allowing for immediate feedback and reinforcement of tongue position.

VowelViz Pro also provides vocalic /r/ targets. Anyone who has ever tried to get a child to produce /r/ with the correct tongue placement and tension knows what a challenge it can be. The use of visual feedback to help shape the sound is invaluable. In this module, the target is an oval shape containing the “R”. The trick is to get the orange ball to fall in the oval which would indicate the correct retroflex position. Tongue prompts such as “pull tongue back”, “raise tongue”, or “curl tongue” can be shown on the screen for additional prompting.

At the top right of the screen, you can find more information about the app. There is a pull down menu with basic instructions and troubleshooting help, an explanation of the vowel quadrilateral and vowel formants, a chart of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and links to the developer’s website for support.

The settings tab allows you to adjust the following:

Live Vowel Tail Length and Input Sensitivity can be adjusted with a slider bar.
Show tongue prompts: on/off
Show flash cards: on/off
Themes: Default – Planets – Flowers – Spelling – Colors – Sports
The applications of this tool are numerous. This app would be very beneficial to use in speech therapy with students with apraxia or hearing impairments. It would also be effective for accent reduction in helping to fine tune their productions of vowels. Any child struggling to produce vocalic /r/ would likely benefit from the visual feedback provided.

I personally used this app to successfully elicit a vocalic /r/ from a student previously not stimulable for the sound. The visual feedback gave the student a target she could shoot for that auditory feedback alone couldn’t provide. She was able to make the necessary adjustments to hit the target on her own with very little prompting from me. The look of pride on her face when she saw that she had hit the target was priceless.

However, this app is not without its flaws. On attempts to produce the /i:/ sound, my voice was consistently mapped in the upper right quadrant rather than the upper left. I was only able to hit the target on this sound, by dropping the pitch of my voice significantly. But for the most part, I was able to land within the target oval on other sounds.

With a bit more fine tuning, this will be a truly wonderful app. The potential application for use in speech therapy is considerable and may be worth the investment especially if you have some tricky /r/ sounds to remediate.

iTunes Link Vowel Viz Pro

Vowel Viz Pro Vowel Viz Pro by SmartPalate International, LLC
Price: $0.99 USD

VowelViz Pro takes the innovative speech mapping app, VowelViz, and makes it even more FUN! VowelViz Pro implements fun, new themes, flash cards, and Vocalic R View to help further engage students in.