AutoVerbal Pro ($1.99)
AutoVerbal Pro allows those who are nonverbal, such as children with autism or adults without the ability to speak, to communicate in three ways. One is to touch hundreds of picture buttons in more than a dozen categories, scrolling down and across using an elegant, responsive soundboard. The application has 10 icons in the top row that can be customized to say whatever you like. The screen is laid out in 16 topic-oriented rows (medical, food, emotions, simple phrases, places, activities, colors, numbers, letters, days of the week, and months). Scroll up or down to get to the appropriate row, and scroll left or right to choose between eight and 19 buttons per row.
The app also allows users to customize several buttons to speak preprogrammed messages, such as “My name is Harvey,” or “I live at 123 Main Street.” A caregiver could do the programming, making it easy for the user to “speak” frequently used phrases. A third option allows users to type a message that is then converted using text-to-speech software.
For a fraction of the cost of an expensive text-to-speech device, everyone can afford to communicate. AutoVerbal leverages the Internet for custom text-to-speech phrases, but automatically uses a standard built-in voice when the Internet is unavailable. WiFi access is required for the app to work because the files are on the company's server. When a custom or typed phrase is called on to use a hi-fi voice, the software connects to the company server and plays back the sounds using QuickTime, which results in clunkiness and some delays. Where no Internet access is available, the program defaults to low-fi voicing.
More voices and phrases are planned, and AutoVerbal looks and works great on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Recent updates included a female voice option, defaults to built-in voices (faster) with an option for Internet voices (better quality), an option to double the button size, and customizable backgrounds using themes for iPad users.
According to the company, the next update will add a transcript feature so users also can see what is spoken (good for hearing-impaired users), and it will allow users to touch the transcript to repeat certain parts. This app was ranked first for iPad medical apps and second for the iPhone in June.
Dr. Castro is an emergency physician, the CEO of Deep Pocket Series (www.deeppocketseries.com), and the creator of several iPhone apps, including IV MEDS, Stroke Scale, A Shockable Ringtone, Drug Seeker, and 1st Follow Up.
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