- Recommended Reading
- Esophageal Speech
- Hands-Free Devices
- Text to Speech Apps
- Alternative Communications
- Speech Difficulties
Text to speech apps
1. Signs of the times. We have just received our first application from someone who gives this as the main method of speech: Using I Pad & I phone for communication.
"Speak it! Text to Speech"
1. In addition to Locabulary Lite, another great text-to-speech program available for the iPhone/iPod and the iPad is "Speak it! Text to Speech". The speech quality is far better than that of Locabulary Lite in my humble opinion.
One nice feature of this program is the ability to copy and paste pretty much any length of text into the program for it to say aloud. Some
of my patients loved that they could type out their most used phrases on a full size keyboard that they wanted to "carry" with them and email it to themselves. They would then copy and paste the messages into the program and save them for later use. Sometimes pecking away on those little screens can be a chore. The other nice little feature is the ability to create an audio file of your message and email it, so the person can actually just listen to what you have written instead of read it.
For $1.99 app you certainly get a lot of functionality. Technology is certainly increasing our options for communication at a rapid pace.
Todd Coleman, MS, CCC-SLP
2. I totally second what Todd is saying about "Speak it!" When I had my surgery last year, my husband downloaded this app for our iPad and I would type up a report for my doctors as the day went by, so when they stopped to check in on my I'd just replay it and it was very easy to communicate. I also had lots of pre-loaded phrases like: "thank you", "suction, please", "can you adjust my humidifier, please" etc. etc. I could just run at any time.
AND the quality of the voice is fantastic! You can chose from several
feminine or masculine voices and accents. I keep thinking some smart
engineering types must be looking at ways where all this speech synthesis
can be applied to devices so our ELs sound like human voices rather than the buzz. Or something along those lines. I bet something will come up along these lines, as technology keeps evolving...
3. IPad has a great text to speech one for 2 dollars called “Speak it” at Apple store or go to iTunes and download.
Sticky Notes that Speak
1. I have been using a program for years on my Windows machines and I just recently found a new use for it. It lets you create post it type notes on your desktop and will allow you to maintain a library of notes that you find useful: recipes, phone numbers, etc. What I just found is that on the left top of each note is a speaker icon...so I clicked on it and it read what ever I had typed into that note (in a very clear woman's voice).
This got me thinking that for those of us with holes in our necks and for some with holes in their heads that this would be a great way of storing notes for different purposes such as making an emergency 911 call for us. One note with your name, complete address, including main cross streets, your home phone number, and emergency contact person's info. Then should you ever need to call 911 just dial the # and play the note for the operator...and replay it as needed. By doing this ahead of time while your thinking is clear you will give accurate info instead of fumbling for your EL or trying to get your breathing working right.
You will also find this to be a great little desktop accessory for jotting down just about anything you want to be reminded of. (It will even let you set alarms for certain notes to go off at certain times). So far this is a Windows only product...but any version of windows will work.
The program is available free of charge from http://www.sticky-notes.org/
Frank in NJ
2. I knew I had sticky notes on my Mac but had to look for who made them. Apple. They are called Stickies and are handy for making notes to refer to for any purpose. Mine are reminder notes usually.
There is no voice on the notes... however for those who have an Apple Computer, you have Speech. So I wrote out a note, went to Edit up top...slid down to Speech in the drop down menu. Then over to Start Speaking. It read my note. As I am writing this, I am trying to be sure the instructions are right so I reached up and chose Start Speaking. I need to quickly find the Stop Speaking (the same way) as yelling Shut Up doesn't work. It is reading this entire message! I just made up a note to be used to reach 911 like Frank suggested.
Mine shows 6 voice choices and you can slow it down or speed it up. To me, Alex is the clearest.
E-TRILOQUIST Ver. 6.3 -
a free PC based text to speech software.
The first section below is the description which is taken directly from the E-triloquist web site located at http://www.etriloquist.com/. You would need to go to the web site to get the links below to work. The second section is my opinion of the pros and cons that I have observed. The last section is a summary of the value of this software for the non-speaking laryngectomee, of which I am one.
E-Triloquist - a PC-based communication aid for a speech impaired person. It serves as an electronic voice for those who can't speak on their own.
E-triloquist, the personal computer augmentative communication aid software formerly known as "SpeakEasy", developed as a family project. Dad had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and lost his ability to speak in the course of the disease. Son is particularly versatile in personal computers. Our first version (named "SpeakEasy" at the time) was made available on the Internet in early 1995. We are now on Version 6.3 with even more new features suggested by current users of the program, and with full support for Windows-XP, Vista, and Windows-7 operating systems. See the News page for full details on the enhancements in V6.1. Go to the Downloads page to install or upgrade to the latest version of E-triloquist.
Most users of the program can still use a keyboard, albeit slowly. For those who can no longer type, E-triloquist can easily be teamed-up with on-screen keyboards, scanners, word-predictors, single-switch input, or other assistive input devices such as Click-N-Type virtual keyboard from Lake Software,SofType from Origin Instruments,WiViK® on-screen keyboard (virtual keyboard) software, Virtual On-Screen Keyboard by MiloSoft,My-T-Mouse from IMG, and a variety of input devices and augmentative communication products from Prentke Romich Company. A longer list of devices can be viewed on the ALS Resources page. These tools can also be added on at a later time if the need arises. Note: when looking for assistive input devices, be sure to get one that will work with ALL of your Windows programs, (e.g. E-triloquist, word processor, e-mail, web browser, ...) not just one specific software program.
The early versions of the program were focused on text phrases that are keyed and converted to speech using the computer's sound card and a standard text to speech program. A while back we added the capability of handling audio phrases as well. Our use of the term "phrase" is quite liberal. For text it ranges from one word to a novel. For audio it ranges from a single spoken word to a song.
Our thought in including audio is that as soon as speech begins to be affected by the disease, patients can record commonly used expressions in their own voice. The pre-recorded expressions in the patient's own voice can later be intermixed with phrases that are keyed and "spoken" in the computer's synthetic voice. One pre-recorded expression might be an explanation of why your voice sounds different from one statement to the next.
Audio phrases need not be the patient's own voice. They can be the voice of a family member or of a friend. Indeed, they need not be spoken. One possibility is a rendition of Happy Birthday or something of that ilk. Or a musical treat, or just plain noise, to announce that you have something profound and/or provocative to say. Hey, we had to include something for people who have already become anarthric, the fancy word for people who can't speak. Dad found that his trumpet fanfares and assorted noises were quite valuable for getting the attention of a group.
Instructions for creating and for adding recorded audio phrases hide in the E-triloquist manual under the Audio Phrases topic. The manual is included in the download and can be accessed from the "Help" menu within the program. Or, you can view the manual now.
PROS AND CONS
1. The E-triloquist software is free.
2. It is easily downloaded from the site and uploaded on the PC. Each function was done in seconds.
3. A free voice is provided with the software, Microsoft Anna, for Windows Vista or 7.0. If you are using Windows XP, you can choose between Microsoft Mike or Mary.
4. It even comes with a 20 page manual.
5. The software is easy to use. You can load it and use it immediately without even opening the manual.
6. It has ongoing support and routine upgrades.
1. This software is for PCs only. If you are using a Mac, this won't work.
2. If you are using Windows Vista or 7.0, you will only have Microsoft Anna's voice. This may be a little awkward for the men out there. Other voices can be purchased from other sites on line. They cost about $30.00 per voice.
3. The voice is very mechanical, which is a problem with most computer voices. It has either no voice inflection or incorrect voice inflection. This makes it difficult to understand.
4. PC speakers are not very loud. To be heard, you may have to invest in external speakers.
5. It has no mobility. You would have to carry your laptop with you if you wanted to use it on the go.
The limited applicability of the software to PCs only and the limit of only one voice, which is female, that comes with the software certainly limits who would comfortably use E-triloquist. Also, the lack of mobility is a hindrance.
However, it is a free software and may be of some use to some of us larys. Speakers may be necessary to amplify the voice.
The above comments are my opinion only and do not represent the opinion of the WebWhispers organization.
Best wishes to all,
DEVICE ADDS PRIVACY FOR TEXT TO VOICE PROGRAM
An additional program to use with E-triloquist for using telephone.
A little background. I had my laryngectomy, a little over two months ago. Over the past two months I have made a few adjustments. I am almost half through with radiation treatments, which will continue for 3 more weeks. After, a hopefully brief convalescence period, I will return to work. As a systems administrator for a large computer-engineering group, my need to communicate on a technical level is important. From what I am told, I will be able to speak again, for that I am grateful. At best, that is 6 months or more down the road, it has been two and counting. Even then, telephone conversations will be more difficult for the recipient to understand. Over the years, I have had many deaf clients, and have set up TTY devices for their use. These have their drawbacks. I have always been a very independent person and have been frustrated with my new dependence on family and friends, for simple everyday things. Which brings me to why I am writing this. I spent hours searching the web, first looking for a text to speech program. I found several free ones. The one I selected is called E-triloquist. I found it on the WebWhispers home page. It allows 48 pre-programmable hot keys, plus plenty of options for pre-typed questions and responses. It is a good program! Having the ability to type and spell are a big plus. Unfortunately I can do neither, but with practice I am getting there. I type into a spell checker program, then cut and paste into the text to speech program. One draw back is the voices that come for free, are terrible. They sound very robotic. I bought 2 additional voices, one male, and one female (they come as a package) from AT&T for $35.00. These voices are better than the free ones, but still leave something to be desired.
Next, I needed a way to interface the output of E-triloquist to the telephone. At first I put the speakerphone near the computer speakers that worked, kind of. There was a problem with background noise, and clarity was lacking. My biggest issue was the lack of privacy. This method would never work in an office environment. I send out inquiries, as to how others cope with this issue. I received several responses, ranging from TTY devices to web services for people with speech difficulties. Although these may work for some people, the limitations of a TTY device, or paying a monthly service charge to make phone calls, spurred me to continue my web search. The point is, I found a hardware device that does what I need, and more. The device allows me to output the text to speech program or anything from the computer speakers, directly to the phone with privacy and clarity. The hardware set up is very simple. It comes with step-by-step instructions and a CD containing an installation video. The use of the text to voice program is also very simple, but takes some practice to make a conversation flow and sound semi normal. This hardware may be purchased at: http://www.ezsharepro.com for $80.00 (Roger and John are very helpful).
The E-triloquist text to voice program can be obtained from:
In closing, even if I am able to use the phone again, with out difficulty, the combination of E-triloquist and the eZSharePro device has been an inexpensive way for me to communicate over the phone until my voice returns.
I also think you should know, that I do not work for, nor profit in anyway, from the sales of the eZSharePro device. In my opinion it is a good product, at a fair price. It has helped me. I am just sharing this information in hopes that others in my situation may benefit.
1. New Product to Watch (HeadLines, 3rd Qtr, 2009)
In the morning paper recently, a product so new you can barely find it on Google, a design firm here in the Birmingham area has created a tool for the speech impaired that will be used on Apple's iPhone. Designed for speech impaired children, it will be wonderful for laryngectomees who can't speak because it speaks for you with a base of words that lets you rapidly form a sentence....or order from McDonalds or Starbucks. It uses the GPS to even offer you that menu as you walk in the store. Words like "Cool" and "Dude", are already programmed. I haven’t seen the part yet that lets you write new words but I do have the beta version on my iPhone.
This is being released, likely this month, July, as a free app for the iPhone.
From the B'ham News article:
"Locabulary" grew out of discussions the team at PUSH Product Design had with Drew Davis, a pediatric rehabilitation physician who is an assistant professor at UAB. Davis and another doctor treat about 4,000 patients in their practice, specializing in children and teens who have physical or cognitive disabilities, such as muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis or traumatic brain injuries.
Davis was interested in PUSH's work in design, believing the firm could make affordable technology for the disabled. PUSH, a firm of Auburn-educated engineers and designers, has designed everything from spinal implants to video gaming equipment.”
“The result was Locabulary, an application, or software tool for Apple's iPhone. Locabulary allows an iPhone user to manipulate the phone's touch screen to call up a menu of words and phrases, with the phone speaking the words. The application is designed so that users can assemble sentences using a minimum number of finger taps and also provides an option for sending completed sentences as text messages. The program was funded by a grant of about $24,000 from the Alabama Council for Developmental Disabilities, a division of the state's Department of Mental Health.”
I remember the days with no voice and the struggle to write the questions or tell them what was happening. Now, if you have an iPhone, you will be able to answer with a touch screen to the extent of what is programmed into the app. This is the start of something exciting for us. I has been for me, already.
You see, I wrote to them to tell them I was excited about what they are doing, and to talk about laryngectomees and WebWhispers. I made a couple of suggestions….. and they liked them. The very next day, they invited me to become an iPhone developer and to join the team. I am enjoying using my knowledge and experience with laryngectomees to make suggestions for methods of making menus work together or separately, and suggesting, for the future, things like a menu to be used to talk with your health professional. They tell me they like my ideas and I certainly like theirs. The app that will be released first will get a lot of feedback and they are leaving plenty of room for growth of vocabulary on Locabulary.
2. By far the newest goes with you everywhere on your phone. I have one of them, on my iPhone and iPad called Locabulary Lite... again FREE. It has a full text to speech with choice of male or female voice. You type,
click to speak. The latest on this is the ability to type a message and
save it under a category... for instance Greetings, Explanations, Questions, Goodbyes, Medical, etc. Make up your own categories. Then you choose a quick explanation that you have written in advance to tell someone what is wrong. You can carry on a conversation with someone by typing your question or answer if they will wait for you to be able to type it.
Pat Sanders (from the WW list, Nov 2010)
3. Be sure to read some of the hints in the library. Ideas for what to take with you to the hospital.. Lots of folks take a laptop now. If I went right now, I would take my iPhone and iPad with Locabulary App loaded on them so they could talk for me. Everyone reaches for a pad and pen.... or those toys that have a screen you can write on. InHealth gives away free the Laryngectomee Needs Charts so you can just point. (They are under Free for the Asking in General Information) http://webwhispers.org/library/library.asp
(From the List Dec 2010)
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