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More and more apps: 134!

Now that we have relocated the blog at www.iautismo.info, I’ve been updating the list of applications. I had some links to explore and some developer’s messages to read. And iTunes and Google are always there. The result is that the list includes now 134 applications! Some of them have editions, so the actual number is really higher (186).

Four months ago, when I started the blog, the list had about 40 apps. What has happened? I think that so many changes deserve an explanation.

First of all, after many, many hours surfing the Internet, I’ve found applications that existed four months ago but I had not yet found.

I have also expanded a bit the focus and therefore I have added apps that initially I did not include, such as timers, apps to practice the language (which sometimes are called SLP – Speech Language Pathology – apps) and others. Where is the limit? It is difficult to define. To clarify it a bit, what I have also done is to go create more categories to help the readers to find what they are looking for.

Finally, and this is the best news, many new apps are being launched, and the month of January has been especially prolific in this regard. The feeling I have is that more and more real professional apps that go beyond basic functionality and offer more advanced features appear each month. At the same time, I begin to wonder if there are already too many applications for PECS and flash cards, or if there is space in the higher range of prices for many competitors of proloquo2go. I suppose that the market will impose its laws, and in any case, what we will do here at iAutism it to review all the apps we can.

-Francesc Sistach

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Review: Voice4u


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Voice4u is part of the group of applications designed to support PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), in which the user relies on pictures, with or without sound, to communicate or even to practice receptive language.

Visions Specrum offers Voice4u, an interesting application in this field for its well-designed interface and the capability to easily extend the system with new pictures.


Functionality

Upon entering the application you see the browser, which shows all the icons and pictures available as a list, with each picture accompanied by its associated words. You can navigate up and down the list or, to move faster, select a letter in the right sidebar, which displays the entire alphabet.

By selecting an icon or picture, you go the screen of that element, which shows the picture and the word or phrase at large. By touching the picture you hear the associated audio, if there is one. A speaker icon at the bottom of the screen lets you change the volume right there without leaving the application or use the physical buttons on the device being used.

Back to the list, you have more options to quickly locate the desired picture: the “popular” and “recent ” buttons bring you two different and partial views of the list, and the “search” button provides you a “classical” search field.

The second main option of Voice4u is “categories”, which allows you to access the pictures by category. Initially the app includes 11 categories, but they can be expanded at will.

More pictures

Voice4u includes 154 pre-loaded icons, being all of them illustrations with a consistent design pattern, but the app gives you the option to add new pictures, to delete them and to edit the existing ones, even those 154.

The third option of Voice4u is precisely devoted to add pictures. First, you have to select the picture itself. The app allows you to take a picture with the built-in camera if the device you are using has this accessory, or to select a photo from the “Saved Photos” of the Photos app that comes with all Apple devices. Unfortunately, you can not select a picture from other folders of that application, which makes a bit more cumbersome to load many library photos.

Once you have selected or taken a picture, your are requested to enter the word or words associated with it, optionally to record an audio clip of up to 10 seconds, and to select the category to which assign the picture.

The categories list itself is expandable as well. All this combined allows you to configure the pictures to our will, writing texts and recording audio clips in any language and using any type of voice, etc.

Finally, the fourth option of the program leads you to a screen where you can access basic from the developer, read some FAQ or send an email to Specrum Visions, but for all this my recommendation is to visit the manufacturer’s website, which is also well-designed and has many content, including tutorial videos, user testimonials and videos, a blog with news and tips, etc. By the way, Specrum Visions should update some texts to reflect that the current iPod touch (fourth generation) has a built-in camera and, therefore, allows you to add new pictures with ease.

Both the website and Voice4 are available in English and in Japanese, something that is not surprising when you read the names of the developers. Specrum Visions sells also Voice4u JP, which is the Japanese version of the app and includes all the texts in Japanese and also some pictures to better reflect the Japanese culture.

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Smoothness

I include Voice4u in the group of PECS apps. The app does not support the creation of sequences and social stories, but as even the manufacturer explains, with a little of imagination anything can be achieved: by creating a category for the sequence and adding several pictures whose words are preceded by a number so they are sorted in the right order, you can create a sequence of images. I insist: this is not the main purpose of Voice4u, but it may be useful for typical sequences of daily routines.

Voice4u is available for the iPod touch and the iPhone, but there is no specific version for the iPad. On the other hand, there is a version for Android (something still quite unusual).

Specrum Visions has a “free licensing program”, giving licenses at no cost to nonprofit organizations, schools, therapists, etc., and in the United States it also offers a 50% discount for purchases of 20 or more licenses through the Volume Purchase Program that Apple launched last year. Unfortunately this program is only available in the U.S. In this country, Visions Specrum also sells a pack with a fourth-generation iPod touch with Voice4u already loaded.

The feeling that Voice4u gave me was smoothness: a simple and friendly graphical interface makes things very intuitive and tidy. Specrum Visions and some testimonials published in its website insist that people with autism are able to learn to use Voice4u quickly, and even to add new pictures themselves. I miss a mechanism to export and import pictures for sharing all your work across multiple devices and some other details, but I really liked this application.

-Francesc Sistach

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Voice4u 1.2.3

Web: http://voice4uaac.com

Developer: Specrum Visions

Languages: English, Japanese (Voice4u JP).

Functions: PECS app with categories and the capability to add more pictures.

iPhone / iPod touch version: Yes

iPad version: No

Other versions: Android (1.2.2)

Price: $29.99 / €23.99

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iAutism.info launched!


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It has been four months since Susana and Francesc started the blog iAutismo (http://iautismo.wordpress.com). The truth is that it has been a great experience. We have dedicated many hours to it, but it also has given us many joys, with the greatest being the 6,000 visits received and the many positive comments on the blog.

Recently, three new editors have joined the team: Laia, Maria and Iván. The latter is also key in managing the blog. Some parents of children with autism have co-authored or contributed to some posts, and a lot of friends have helped us by reviewing translations to English and Catalan. And we now have the cooperation and support of Fundación Planeta Imaginario, which provides both articles and the expert opinion so necessary to properly evaluate an application for people with autism.

As a further milestone in our development, we have migrated the blog to a hosting service. This allows us to have our own domain (www.iautism.info), ensures that no third party ads appear on our pages and gives us greater control over the look and feel of the blog. Amongst other things, this allows us to have a true multi-language blog, with entries sorted by language. The blog’s default language is Spanish, but the aim of this blog is to help everyone, so almost all content is translated to English. As far as possible, we also publish entries in Catalan (the language we speak where we live).

With this international focus and the aim to provide information, we have decided to rename the blog, which is now called iAutism, and use the “. info” extension. Along the way we have lost nothing (or we do not remember it :-) ): all articles and comments from the previous blog are here, and we look forward to adding a lot more useful information on the use of tactile devices for people with autism in the future.

-Francesc, Iván, Laia, Maria and Susana

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