Review: Assistive Chat

Assistive Chat is an AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) app, and more precisely a TTS (Text to Speech) one. It is useful for people that have speech problems but knows written language, which includes a lot of people with ASD (to finish a paragraph full of acronyms).

Well, this explanation translated into an SPD (an acronym that I just invented for a “simple and flat description”) means that Assistive Chat is an app that provides an alternative way of communication that enhances the surely limited capabilities of the user by generating speech from text that that user must enter or select previously.

Assistive Chat does that, and nothing more, but thanks to some shortcuts it help users to quickly create sentences.

Chat

Assistive Chat has four options. The first, Chat, shows what could be considered the main screen. At the bottom we have a keyboard to write words that will appear in the top box. Every time you finish a word, you hear its pronunciation, and at any time you can hear the whole sentence by touching the green button with the speaker image. The red button deletes all content, and the star button adds the current sentence to a list of favorites.

TTS systems are often as effective as slow. To enter the words one to one is usually a slow process. Assistive Chat reduces this problem through a word prediction functionality. Thus, as soon as you start to write a word, four suggestions appear on top of the keyboard, and they change to better adapt when you enter more letters.

This prediction is based not only on an internal dictionary, but also on the words entered by the user, even if they are new. So, after writing a sentence that included my name (Francesc), every time I put an “f” as the first letter the word “Francesc” appears as one of the four suggestions.

Recents

The Recent tab shows the last 20 sentences you have written, regardless of whether you have selected them as favorites or not.

You can move through the list and edit it by selecting sentences to delete or even by erasing all them at once.

Here, I cannot avoid thinking on some improvements. Every time, at the Chat tab, that you touch the green button the current sentence is added to this “recent” list. That is fine, but the app could not do that if the sentence has not changed. To see the same sentence repeated in the list adds nothing. And it would be useful to have a button to add one of these sentences to the favorites list.

Favorites

With a very similar layout, the Favorites tab lets you see the favorite sentences that you have been recording by touching the gold star button at the Chat tab. Again, you can edit that list and delete the sentences one at a time or all at once.

And again, I think it would be good to be able to rearrange the list at will or even to search sentences by keywords.

Settings

In this tab you can define some program settings. First, you can configure whether, in chat mode, each word will sound once written or not.

And regarding the voice, you can select which will be used among those available (man, woman or boy), the speed of the voice and the volume of the speaker of the device. Two buttons let you restore the default values and test the voice using the chosen configuration.

Rating

Assistive Chat is an “universal” app, a term that in the iPad/iPhone/iPod touch world indicates that the same app runs on all these devices, but using in each one of them a slightly different interface to better match the proportions and size of the screen.

That, in my opinion, is the path that all developers should follow, as having two different apps requires you to pay twice if you want to use the app on an iPod away from home and on an iPad at home, to give an example. The app also adapts the interface depending on the orientation of the device.

Assistive Chat has a simple but functional interface with large and easily accessible buttons. This, plus the word prediction functionality and the three voices give together the impression of a very successful and functional implementation of a TTS app.

-Francesc Sistach

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Assistive Chat 1.15

Web: http://www.assistiveapps.com

Developer: Assistive Apps

Languages: American English.

Functions: TTS (text to speech) with word prediction.

iPhone/iPod touch: Yes.

iPad: Yes.

Price: $24.99 / €19.99

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