Portable Text to Speech
February 28, 2005 7:17 PM   Subscribe

Basically, I am looking for the exact opposite of a Speak 'n Spell. A durable, portable device that allows the user to key in text, and have it played as speech.

I have seen the various text to speech software solutions for the PC, and they are very impressive, but I need something that I can hand to my autistic son to allow him to type out what he wants to say without being tethered to a computer. I have searched around a little bit and not seen anything quite like I am looking for. Any suggestions?
posted by Lokheed to Technology (8 answers total)
 
I might be wrong about this, but one of the Texas Instruments Speak n things should do something similar. Though I imagine there is something far more technologically advanced now.
posted by drezdn at 8:45 PM on February 28, 2005


I'm pretty sure there are devices like this---you mean something like what Steven Hawking uses to talk?

I think a company here in Pittsburgh called Augmentech makes touchscreen units that do this---they're full of fancy software that, besides just letting you type what you want to say, also presents screens with icons for whole words. It knows which words tend to follow certain other words, so you can construct many sentences easily just by clicking icons on the screen.

Unfortunately, the corporate website isn't helpful just yet. There's contact info. I'd be surprised if they were the only company making devices like this.
posted by tss at 8:56 PM on February 28, 2005


I used to work for a company that made augmentative communication devices. That the phrase if you are going to google some on it. There are hundreds of devices from dozens of companies that make something similar.

We were the distributor of the LightWRITER which sounds liek what you may be looking for. It is high end ($2,000-5,000). Virtually everything is, but it is generally covered via your durable medical equipment coverage on private healthcare and is covered via Medicaid. It works really well and is easy to use and understand. Feel free to email if you have questions about it or anything else in the industry.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 10:36 PM on February 28, 2005


Could the Phraselator be helpful? You can both speak into it and select phrases from a menu (usually English -> Other Language, though). It's what the military uses in Afghanistan and Iraq.
posted by dhartung at 12:03 AM on March 1, 2005


I knew there would be expensive high-end devices, but it never occured to me that insurance might cover them. I just hesitate to spend thousands of dollars on a piece of equipment that may or may not work. It is apparent to me that there is a lot more going on in my son's head than he is able to communicate with his limited spoken vocabulary, and I have read about some autistics for whom typing allows them to communicate much more clearly.

I think I'll start with some simple PC software and see if it appeals to him, and then look into something like the LightWRITER.
posted by Lokheed at 3:39 AM on March 1, 2005


These guys have used iBooks between $380-$1400. Add freeware app Speech Cue and you're ready too rock, (5 stars on Version Tracker, haven't tried it myself though). iBooks are very rugged portables. I have several Macs, they are built like tanks, for the most part. Good luck.
posted by Scoo at 4:42 AM on March 1, 2005


Lokheed, if your son in in school, try the speech language pathologist (SLP) for the school or district. They work everyday in finding the appropriate device to help mainstream students and are really familiar with the "how to" of finding what works.

If he isn't in school, try a referral through insurance. They should point you to a private SLP that can help. Be prepared to do research on suggested devices for them as they tend to only know a few, but can help your son find what he is comfortable with and in any case, insurance usually requires a recommendation from them.

Best of luck.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 8:28 AM on March 1, 2005


An autistic friend of mine uses a LightWriter, and it's the coolest piece of aug comm I've seen and heard. (She has the model with a two way LED display so people who aren't accustomed to synthetic speech can read what she types.) In general, don't buy any of those devices without trying them first -- my pal burned through two others that were fragile and bloody expensive to repair.

Less expensive and lighter than a PowerBook plus speech software, you might wish to consider a Talking DANA for around US$600. I can strongly recommend both of its progenitors: AlphaSmart has produced exceptionally sturdy "smart keyboards" aimed at school children for a decade, and Don Johnston, Inc. have been pioneering and supporting assistive software since I was an Apple II developer in the 80s.

I am never without my DANA (it's a Palm OS 4 device with a 16-bit gray screen). The keyboard is outstanding, I can set most of the screen fonts to "easy on old eyes." A talking version could be just the ticket -- in addition to aug comm your son would have a sturdy portable writing assistant/to do list/etc. It's basically DJ's Write:Outloud software running on the DANA's OS. Chances are excellent that your local school has a Write:Outloud license you can play with -- and at $99, it's an affordable "mistake" if it comes to that.
posted by pricklefoot at 4:07 PM on March 1, 2005


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