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Review: Expressive


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In the List of Apps for iPad / iPhone / iPod touch, Smart Ears, the developer company of Expressive, appears 16 times with the same number of apps, especially in the category of Speech Therapy / Articulation / SLP. And in the List of Apps for Android, Smart Ears appears 3 more times. No other company has so many apps right now. In fact, when I periodically update the app lists of iAutism, one of the first things I do is to stop by their website to see what’s new.

I hope I’ll soon test some of their SLP apps, but I’m starting now with Expressive, its app for image-based AAC.

In short, Expressive AAC is based on the selection of images classified by categories, allowing the user to build “phrases” based on concatenation of images and playing the audio associated with each image. It is therefore an application similar to others already discussed in iAutism, but with its specific features that I will discuss below.

Complete and simple
Expressive, while being an entry to mid level AAC app, as the developer claims itself, is quite powerful yet simple. When starting it, the user sees a screen divided into three zones: the top, where the selected images will appear; the central and largest, which shows the categories of images and the images themselves; and the bottom, which shows some control buttons. Expressive can be used in both horizontal and vertical screen mode.

From here, the user can select one or more images by navigating through folders of categories and touching concrete images. Each folder can contain images and other subfolders. So to say “Hello, I need water”, you have to combine the images of “Hello,” “I need” and “water”, which belong to two different categories.

Each time you select an image, you hear an audio clip that “reads” the text associated to the image. The recorded audio clip employs natural voice, which can be chosen between a male and a female voice. At any time, by touching the top zone you will hear the whole sentence. The button with the “X” in red deletes the entire phrase.

In the first level of categories, each folder can have a different background color, which in turn is applied to all images and subfolders inside that folder. While navigating by the categories, you’ll always have on hand two buttons at the bottom: one for moving up one level and another to go to the home screen that shows the first level of categories.

600 symbols
Expressive comes with 600 symbols or pictograms grouped into several categories and subcategories: basics, expressions, places, food and drink, people, questions, verbs, feelings, clothing, home, school, toys, animals, etc. All of them are colored symbols with a transparent background.

These pictograms are a selection of over 10,000 symbols available in the Smarty Symbols library, part of Smarty Ears, which licenses then to app developers, schools and individual practitioners.

Adding Images
The basic operation of Expressive ends just here, but then there is the –logic and expected- ability to expand the repertoire of images and to reorder them. In this aspect, Expressive shins because of how has integrated these options.

Two more buttons in the bottom zone of the screen allow the user, at any time, to remove and add images or folders. In the case of adding folders, you have to give them a name and, if you are in the first level, select a background color. For images, you can choose between adding an existing image (for example, because you want to copy it in a specific category) or taking a picture from the iPad/iPhone’s photo library. There is no option of taking a picture at the same time assuming that your device has a built-in camera.

In case you are adding a new image, you can write the text associated with it and record an audio clip using the device’s integrated microphone.

Also, at any time, you can reorder the images in a category by dragging them to their new position.

What I really like of these options is that they are right there, so an “advanced” user can use them while using Expressive to communicate. For less advanced users, you can block the ability to delete, reorder and add images, ie, all the editing options

Finally, another button allows you to send a message to Smarty Ears, see its Facebook page and play a 10-minutes video that serves as a manual of the Expressive.

Assessment
Expressive clearly falls within the category of image-based AAC, which is precisely the one that has more similar applications. Distinguish between them is complicated, and you have to look each one in detail to find the one that fits better with your needs. An important aspect of Expressive is that it comes with 600 high quality symbols accompanied by audio clips. It also allows to assign colors to folders, create as many folders and subfolders as you want, and reorder images within a folder. The flexibility here is therefore very high.

The quality of the application is also very good. I had no problems and everything runs smoothly. The video serves well as a manual, but anyway Expressive is a very intuitive and user-friendly app. Besides Smarty Ears website, there ia another website focused only on Expressive, and it is a very well-done website.

As improvements, I would like a future version that allow the user to add pictures taken directly with the built-in camera and, even paying a bit more, to incorporate symbols from Smarty Symbols from inside the app and without having to apply for licenses (which now involves contacting the company by email etc.). But one thing that I dislike is that images, once added, can not be manipulated to alter the text or audio clip. That would be useful to fix mistakes or to record audio with the voice of a child or with a different accent -Australian, for example- but, above all, would allow users who speak Spanish, French or other languages to change the text and audio clips of the 600 already loaded symbols.

Still, Expressive is a great AAC app, very easy and user-friendly, that will give you a high-quality sensation.

-Francesc Sistach

Expressive 2.0
Links: iTunes
Company: Smarty Ears
App website: Expressiveapp
Languages: English
Functions: AAC based on images with 600 per loaded symbols, category hierarchy and audio clips
Versions: one for iPad/iPhone/iPod touch
Price: $49.99 / €39.99

 


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Sara
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any app for android ?

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