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REVIEW: Communicate Easy


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Communicate Easy is possibly the most complete “AAC app based on communication through the selection of single images organized by categories”, one of the major AAC types.

If you take a look at my list of apps for people with special needs, you’ll see that I have divided AAC apps into 8 groups. Some AAC apps include extensive vocabularies and web services, some allow the users to build up phrases and others are based on selecting single images from a library. The last ones are typically used by non-verbal people as a first step to communicate.

For the creators of Communicate Easy, communication based on single images does not necessarily mean a simple app. They have included many options, settings and utilities to create a powerful but very affordable app that deserves to be taken seriously.

Features
Communicate Easy uses a library of cards and folders, where each card includes an image, a text label and an audio clip. Users can add folders and create new cards with images from the device’s image gallery or from the inbuilt camera and their own recorded audio clips.

Many apps offer these features, but Communicate Easy goes further. For example, when adding a new card, not only can you crop but also rotate the image or modify it again later. Also, you can use a synthesized male or female voice if you prefer not to record audio clips, and you can add a second audio clip with a sound related to the object or animal shown in the image. With folders, multi-level hierarchies can be created and, within each, images can be sorted alphabetically or manually. And there are even some other options and settings.

Cards can have different states, allowing you to tick cards, make them unavailable, hide them or make them a mystery card. These states can be changed on the fly, allowing the parent/caregiver to temporarily restrict the contents of a specific folder, for example. So Communicate Easy can be used not only as an AAC app, but also as an app for choice making, managing short lists of things to do, scheduling and other similar uses.

3 modes
Communicate Easy offers three user modes:

  • Edit, a mode typically used by parents/caregivers to create and modify the app’s content;
  • Preview, that allows to use the communication features with 4 cards and at the same time allows to edit the contents; and
  • Live View, that does not allow to edit the contents and shows six images on the screen.

The screen design for communication is clean. The background is dark, something quite unusual but also a feature that I personally like, as it helps to enhance the images and makes the background and the edges of the iPad all the same color (assuming it’s a black iPad), drawing attention to the images.

Each time an image is selected, it is enlarged, you hear the audio clip, the text shines, and you have a chance to hear the secondary audio clip and to change the card’s state by touching some big graphical buttons.

Communicate Easy also includes a backup utility that allows you to copy all your folders and cards to your PC/Mac and to restore them (something that iTunes can do by itself) but also to transfer them to other iPads. And, for multiuser environments, you can create different libraries, each one with its own set of folders and cards.

Assessment
The developers of Communicate Easy have extended the single-image AAC model with several features that you cannot find in many similar apps out there. At the same time, the price has been kept very low. The result is a quite interesting AAC app.

Having so many features requires some extra time to get used to the app initially. An inbuilt help manual helps a bit, but it’s too much detailed for my taste. Anyway, after a while you get comfortable with the app.

Of course, there are things that could be improved. Communicate Easy only includes an initial set of 91 images and pictograms, and I would like to have the option to hide the state buttons if I am not going to use them. But most of all, I would love to see an iPhone/iPod version.

In summary, Communicate Easy is an AAC app to communicate with single images but with plenty of power for its target users.

-Francesc Sistach

Communicate
Company: Pluja Apps Limited Cue
Languages: English.
Functions: AAC based on selecting single images with several advanced features.
Versions: Only for the iPad
Price: $1.99 / NZ$2.59 /  €1.79

 


Update: Version 2.0

A few weeks after reviewing version 1.3, Pluja Apps Limited has launched version 2.0. It basically includes some minor tweaks plus two major new features:
- Video cards: Now, a card can also be based on a video. You can get videos from the Camera Roll, from an app folder accessible via iTunes, and from the device library.
- Lockdown options: They allow you to prevent the user from navigating away whilst allowing them to make choices and complete schedules.


 

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