App Review – Speech Assistant
Speech Assistant is a text based communication app for Android that allows the user to both select pre-written phrase buttons, or to type in manually what they want to say and have the app speak aloud for them.
This isn’t an an app that’s full of customisation options but it does do what it sets out to do well. Obviously the fact that it is entirely text based will have limitations on who can use it – the user must be able to read and type. There is both a free version (which is the one I trialed) and a paid for version that costs £4.42 for more categories, phrases and customisation options.
So, there’s little that can be said about the actual content since it is either clicking on phrases or typing with the on-screen keyboard so first a look at the settings/customisation that is available:
There are a number of small changes you can make to the layout and buttons available, or the way you use the app to help users out. Such as the different options for clearing the typed in text – do you want it to clear automatically after the app speaks or do it manually, do you want there to be an undo button in case you delete it prematurely, do you want each letter that you typed spoken aloud to help you keep track of what letter you’re looking for next?
The size and colour of the buttons can be increased or decreased depending on the vision and fine motor skills of the user, and the general colour scheme can be altered as well. A personal colour scheme can be made so users who find certain colours difficult to read can ensure that the app uses colours that they are most comfortable using.
The voice and the pacing can also be altered – pitch deepened or raised, pauses lengthened or shortened. Again there aren’t a wide array of options but there are enough for users to adapt the app to something they prefer. Since it is a free app, the voice isn’t any less robotic regardless of what option you choose for it – but it’s not a grating voice, just your standard computer generated one.
You can also change the categories and the phrases that are pre-stored in each of these categories – with the full version it is possible to create profiles for say Home, Work, School, Going Out so that the most useful phrases are presented on the main page for each profile. In the same settings area as this you can change the keyboard layout and style to make it more accessible.
Actually Using It
As I said further up, this app is limited to users who can at least read. Those who can type will get more out of the app but if someone can read then they can still make use of the app with some help from another person to set up the most useful key phrases.
As the image I used above shows, the app comes with some phrases already loaded onto both the main page and within the categories. Quite a few of these might need to be altered – for a start unless your name is Tom that one is definitely going to be modified or deleted. It’s fairly easy to do this – you press the button once and then use the button on the side entitled “Edit phrase” to make changes.
Using the app on a phone is a bit trickier than using it on a tablet due to the size constraints and the fact that it requires substantially more scrolling. Users who would want this app for their phone would require better fine motor skills than those using a tablet, more so for those who would be using the tiny on-screen keyboard.
That said, I managed to make all the changes I wanted without looking up a guide of any sort (and I will link to the apps website at the bottom for those who want to look at a guide/tips) and there isn’t much more I can say about it. It did what I wanted it to, and it did it well.
There are limitations – the user needs to be able to read and preferably type, but for those who can this is a straight forward app that takes very little time to set up and start using. The paid for version allows better customisation – particularly in allowing different Profiles, but the free version will be enough for a lot of people.
More information: http://www.a-soft.nl/speechassistant-tips.html