Trekkers, trekkies, sci-fi geeks, most of us computer types have some form of “space nerd” hidden deep within us, or, maybe not so deep. Like others, I would love to see Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future come true. Mankind would have overcome his warring ways and we’d all be mature enough to put our differences behind us. But the older I get, the more I begin to doubt the feasibility of this future. I’m sure that even now some testosterone-fueled teen is beating the tar out of some dude for having looked at his girlfriend.
I was recently surprised when a friend of mine mentioned the drop out rate in high school. I thought, “Drop out rate”; who drops out of high school in this day and age? I really thought that, by and large, dropping out of school was a thing of the past. Obviously I’m not a parent.
I can give Gene Roddenberry one thing though. He was very good at predicting the advancement of technology. Of course, we don’t have transporter and/or warp drive technology, although I’m sure some conspiracy theorists believe we do. So, just for kicks, let’s examine some of the advancements that Gene Roddenbury/Star Trek predicted. Many of them we use today:
Automatic Sliding Doors (Star Trek TOS)
Cell phone (TOS Communicator)
Wireless (Bluetooth) Earpieces/Telephones (TOS Earpiece)
Handwriting Recognition Software (on TOS Electronic Feinberger Board)
Touchscreen Interfaces (TNG Touch-Sensitive Control Interface)
Tablet Computers (ENT PADD) In fact, you can buy your own PADD app on iTunes.
Holographic Computer games like this Dogfighting Game from Star Trek 3
Portable Computer Memory (Star Trek TOS)
Such wonderful gadgets, and all modern day realities, but have they produced world peace… hardly. That’s not to say that technology cannot improve the lives of people, however. In fact, technology can make a world of difference for those coping with illness and disabilities. Seems to me that Steven Hawking’s mind would be all but cut off from the world were it not for his electronic voice synthesizer.
Years ago, a friend of mine graduated with a degree in speech pathology from Wayne State University. She has been practicing for longer than she, or I care to remember. Recently she enlightened me about a number of developments in the speech pathology field. She informed me of the availability of apps to assist those with various forms of communication and speech impediments. I thought it might be helpful to examine some of these apps.
Grace Picture Exchange App for Non-Verbal People
Let’s begin by looking at the Grace App by Steven Troughton-Smith. This is a wonderful app for Non-Verbal People or people suffering with autism. Anyone who has ever dealt with a newborn has no doubt, at times been frustrated by the baby’s inability to communicate. You’ve fed the baby, changed the baby, burped the baby, picked them up and put them down, and still they’re screaming. This is a very frustrating situation for all parties involved. Now put yourself in the shoes of an adult who is still unable to communicate his/her wants, needs and ideas.
Thankfully this simple intuitive app can go a long way in assisting those who are unable to verbally communicate on their own. It can also assist caretakers in understanding the needs of their loved ones. The Grace App uses a simple picture exchange system that allows the user to form simple, cohesive sentences. The user can select from any number of menus to string together words, phrases, numbers, images etc. For example, one menu contains the following words:
- I need help
- I want
New images/icons can be uploaded from the Internet or the user can photograph the items they wish to have uploaded. Images can be rearranged and reordered to fit the needs of the user. The Grace app has received awards such as:
Winner of the 2010 Irish Web Awards and United Nations World Summit Award Mobile.
The Grace app is more expensive than most, but it is easily worth the $37.99 in terms of the clarity it brings.Download on the App Store
Grace App Demo Video
Speech Tutor App
Next we bring the PocketSLP Speech Tutor by Synapse Apps, LLC. Designed by speech and language pathologists (SLPs), the Speech Tutor is designed for children with speech delays, or anyone wishing to improve their American English accent.
Bringing together the latest in technology and animation, the Speech Tutor allows the user to see inside a “virtual” mouth in order to understand how each sound is made. The Tutor depicts the lower half of an animated face. The face can be viewed from two perspectives, frontal and side. Because aspects of the animation are transparent, the viewer can study all aspects of the mouth from the configuration of the lips, to the positioning of the tongue. Furthermore, the app accurately simulates each intonation so the end user can gauge their enunciation against that of the app. Each of the 136 animations can be viewed at three speeds, slow, medium, or fast.
One does not have to be an SLP in order to use the app. The Speech Tutor features “Basics”, an easy to understand tutorial providing foundational knowledge to improve any/all English consonants. The PocketSLP also provides tips and technical details as to how each sound is made. Moreover, licensed SLPs have included milestones for when each sound should be acquired/mastered.
The Speech Tutor app also provides a “Palate” diagram to further demonstrate where the tongue should be placed on the palate.
Finally, users have the option to record themselves as they practice their sounds. They can then play it back in order to assess their progress.
Animations are provided for the following sounds:
P, B, T, D, K, G, N, M, ING, F, V, S, Z, SH, CH, J, L, R (retroflex and bunched)
TH (voiced and voiceless).
Speech Tutor App Demo Video
Articulate it! App
Enter the brand new app “Articulate it!” by Smarty Ears. Designed to help children with speech delays, Articulate it! helps both parents and SLPs work towards improving the speech of children.
Featuring over one thousand images, Articulate it! includes corresponding audio recordings for every word in the app. More importantly, the Smarty Ears app includes all the sounds and phonemes in the English language. Articulate it! encourages children to practice to their pronunciation by presenting amazing images and sounds for the children to imitate. If a student is having difficulty with any one sound, Articulate it! allows you to group sounds by manner of articulation or phonological processes. You can even skip the images that you don’t want to practice. Articulate it! doesn’t stop there. You can simultaneously track the progress of multiple students, even if they have different goals. The built in voice recorder allows children to assess their progress by comparing their voice to that of the audio recording. The Smarty Ears app also enables parents and SLPs to record the progress of their students with the note-taking app. It does it all. Get yours today.Download on the App Store
Articulate it! Demo Video
Tiga Talk Speech Therapy Games
Lastly, we present “Tiga Talk Speech Therapy Games” by Tiga Talk 3 Inc. & Tactica Interactive. Developed with licensed speech and language pathologists, Tiga Talk is comprised of twenty-three, playful, voice-controlled games that emphasize core phonetic sounds
Based entirely on participation, not accuracy, the fun-filled games encourage children to learn fundamental phonetic sounds, which are the building blocks of language. Gameplay rewards the child. As long as they are trying to make sounds, they receive positive feedback. Over time, the child’s confidence grows, resulting in improved speech clarity, and articulation.
Tiga Talk is designed for parents and SLPs working with children/toddlers with language delays. Nevertheless it can be used by anyone looking to give his or her child a head start in early language development. Tiga and friends take your child on an exciting interactive story adventure and instill them with a sense of pride and confidence. They can earn gold stars, pop balloons to reveal clues, and knock down a slew of obstacles that lay in their path, including:
- Towers of tires
- Ice blocks
- Hay bales
- Moon rocks and more…
Your child can also activate any number of vehicles including:
- A boat
- Hot air balloon
- Race car
- Rocket ship to visit the moon
Through repetition and imitation, your child will learn to speak clearly and pronounce sounds correctly, including letters, syllables, and letter combinations. Audio and video hints encourage your child to accurately pronounce sounds. Tiga Talk is so user friendly; your child should have no problem using it by him or herself.Download on the App Store
Or, visit the official Tiga Talk website.
In conclusion, it’s nice to know that technology can be used to better the lives of people from all walks of life. The world needs more technology like this.