Sunday, July 28, 2013

Write to Talk Apps


Published July 23, 2013 11:31 AM by Megan Sutton
Handwriting comes more naturally than typing for many adults and is likely to be better preserved after neurological injury or disease. For those who have lost their ability to speak, a voice-output app may be the best way to be heard. However, nearly all voice-output communication apps require the user to type in a message, leaving those without keyboarding skills in the lurch. Two AAC apps offer writers a chance to hear their words by converting handwriting to text, then text to speech.
HandySpeech (universal iOS app for $29.99) excels at recognizing print, script and mixed case writing and outputting it in high-quality artificial speech. Voices can be male or female in US or UK English accents; 11 other languages are available for in-app purchase of $2.99 each. The app requires an Internet connection (wifi or 3G) for speech output, though if none is available, the user can work around the problem by selecting the text and making use of the device's text-to-speech function.

There are many settings to help the app better recognize handwriting, including the ability to exclude letter shapes that are rarely or never used. Users can type directly into the app if desired, as well as paste text from other apps. A great feature of this relatively low-cost AAC app is the ability to store phrases for quick communication.  Unfortunately, the only way to save phrases is to type them in through the settings, excluding the handwriting user from the process of storing messages.
Handwriting-to-speech is one of many features included in the full-service AAC app Predictable (universal iOS app for $159.99). While Predictable lacks the variety of settings to improve handwriting recognition, it offers the ability to use the voice when the device is not connected to the Internet. You can also easily output your message to email, Facebook, Twitter and SMS, or add it to the stored phrases list. Unfortunately, this app's useful word prediction feature does not work when using handwriting input. It is also difficult to insert spaces between words when combining handwritten phrases. 
For an app that turns handwriting to text without the voice output, please look back at my previous post on MyScript Memo.
posted by Megan Sutton

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