Voice Recognition & Activation Apps for Speech Therapy
Voice recognition and activation have been slowly made it into the main stream with advancements like Siri, S Voice, or even Dragon Naturally Speaking. These features are also making their way into apps and I am not talking about apps like Talking Tom, Talking Ben, or Talking Ava as these are simple record and say apps. These record and say apps are useful especially with children that are reluctant to vocalize or just too stubborn. What I am talking about is using your voice, words, or phrases to activate the app or cause something on the screen to happen in response to a “recognized” word or sound. Some of these apps are voice activation apps and some are voice recognition apps.
This app, based around characters of a Canadian TV show, appears to be a much improved version of the first Tiga Talk app which I have to say I was not a fan of. I wasn’t a fan of the first app because it put too much emphasis on the phoneme and then adding a ‘uh’ to the end. If you are a phonology person you know this is a ‘no no’. The premise of this app is that all the animal’s voices were stolen and you have to help them get their voices back by telling them. The developers have done a much better job this time around and have made it very fun and interactive working on 18 phonemes each with a different animal “voice”. The recognition software appears to be pretty accurate but they are up front with the disclaimer: “Gameplay rewards are based entirely on participation, not accuracy, so the child is constantly getting positive feedback as long as they are trying to make sounds!”. I am glad that they make this disclaimer because in the hands of a parent this would be a very useful app. There are other nice features to turn on and off such as on screen items to tap like acorns for the squirrel etc.. I did find it weird that some of the characters appear to be standing in mid- air during some of the scenes, which hopefully is an easy fix for the developers. So keeping in mind proper sound production and elicitation techniques a great therapist will find this app handy, especially if you are working on some early approximations.
This app has a really super simple premise. There is a monkey on screen with a thought bubble and the user has to say what it is. The voice recognition analyzes it and tells you if you’re correct or incorrect. MonkeyThinks uses the CMU Pocketsphinx library, and Politepix’s OpenEars (cmusphinx.sourceforge.net, www.politepix.com/openears/). Upon your first incorrect response and written cue will pop up on the screen. The voice recognition software is actually fairly sensitive and isn’t based on “accept any vocalization.” It’s not perfect though as it will accept “bee” for “key” and some other differences like that. This app would work best for a child working on word retrieval and expressive vocabulary and not for a child working on articulation. I have e-mailed the developer to find out how many words are in the word set as it is not listed, they also indicate that there will be more word sets coming soon.
Magic Voice, by Pocket SLP, is a voice activation app where the child use’s there voice to make something happen on the screen. There are 5 animations available in the app: a car, a balloon, a magic hat, a rocket, and a stack of blocks. Once the animation is selected the child then uses their voice to trigger the animation. There are 3 levels of difficulty I first thought this app was super sensitive to sound as it kept activating from the noise of my ceiling fan, so I went and tried it in a room without any noise in it. Once the difficulty level was selected the animations seem to start with or without sound, so I am hoping that Pocket SLP can comment on this. I was also concerned that when the app was released it was in the education category but I have now found it in the entertainment category.
This is a fun little iphone game based on voice activation. You are the pilot of a rocket ship flying through space and you use your voice to control your ship, saying “Ahhh” to go up and “Pah” to shoot. The game is a little tricky at first to get a hang of so could be a little frustrating for younger children. This game might work best perhaps with a child that has voice goals.
This is a wonderful free app put out by Disney that is an “Interactive Show”. It is based on one episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse called “Road Rally”. It also has a voice activation component to it where Mickey asks you a question and you have to answer. It would be really neat if it was voice recognition as well but sadly it’s not as most of the time the background music activates the voice activation areas. None the less it’s a great app that has big production value that will be great motivator for any client that’s a fan of Mickey Mouse!
EggZoo is an app developed on the representative method for teaching language to children- Total Physical Response (TPR). I had to look this up as I thought I was crazy for having never heard of it but it is apparently a methodology for teaching second languages that involves interacting and acting out the words as you learn them. The app revolves around four egg shaped animals You learn the words: catch, hit, chase, laugh, jump, spin, smell, shake, sleep, play, eat, and fly. You interact with the characters touching items on the screen for a few turns and then it switches to saying the words. There really isn’t voice recognition as it will accept any sound to activate the character’s response. That being said it will work well for a child working on approximations to some of these words like “eat” or “play”. It’s unfortunate that most of the words have clusters in them, but they are still good words to work on expressive vocabulary.
Are you using any other voice recognition or activation apps that I have not listed? How do you use these types of app in therapy? Comment and let me know! Thanks!