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1. Text-to-Speech for the less fortunate: from talking cellular phones to augmentative alternative communication devices. Luisa Cordano. February 21, 2007. Speechtek West 2007 . Overview. What is AAC? AAC users and requirements AAC solutions and devices

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Text-to-Speech for the less fortunate: from talking cellular phones to augmentative alternative communication devices

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Text-to-Speech for the less fortunate: from talking cellular phones to augmentative alternative communication devices

Luisa Cordano

February 21, 2007

Speechtek West 2007

  • What is AAC?
  • AAC users and requirements
  • AAC solutions and devices
  • The importance of speech technologies
  • The role of the speech technology designer
  • Loquendo’s experience
  • Case studies and real deployments

What is AAC?

  • AAC is augmentative and alternative communication

Defined as: 1) The supplementation or replacement of natural speech and/or writing using aided and/or unaided symbols...

2) The field or area of clinical/educational practice to improve the communication skills of individuals with little or no functional speech." (Lloyd, L.L., Fuller, D.R., & Arvidson, H.H. (1997) Augmentative and Alternative Communication

  • AAC is a field of endeavor addressing the expressive communication needs of people with significant speech disability.
  • AAC interventions range from no technology (gestures, signs) to low technology (communication board, wallet) to high technology (voice output communication aids).
  • Individuals may be recommended several AAC systems over a lifetime. Therefore, how systems handle this transition and maintain consistency when change occurs is important to achieving long-term effective communication.
who needs aac the users
Who needs AAC? The Users
  • Users

Individuals with severe communicationdisorders and for whom gestural, speech and/or written communication is temporarily or permanently inadequate to meet all of their communication needs, for example:

    • Blind, visually impaired and elderly
    • Speech-impaired (e.g. Stroke (i.e. aphasic, dysartric), accident, brain tumor, anoxia, Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ASL ), Lou Gehrig’s Disease,…)
    • Developmental causes (e.g. prenatal, perinatal, congenital

or genetic problems)

    • Parkinson disease
    • Spinal cord injury
who needs aac the use requirements
Who needs AAC? The Use Requirements
  • User requirements depends on impairement
    • No use of hands

mouth sticks, headsticks, switches, eye-pointing

    • No read and spell

picture and graphic symbols e.g.PCS + speech generation

    • On wheelchair

large communication devices

    • Walking

small and light aids

scope and goals of aac
Scope and Goals of AAC
  • AAC in everyday life


  • AAC supporting users with impairments or disabilities

- To express themselves, their needs and requests, their ideas and feelings

    • Compensate severe difficulties in natural expression
    • Assist in maintaining existing competencies
    • Empower life skills and independence
    • Improve social networking and inclusion
  • gesture and body language
  • facial expressions
  • writing
  • manual signs
scope and goals of aac7
Scope and Goals of AAC

The ATIA reports that people who rely on AAC indicate that the two most important things for them are:

  • Saying EXACTLY what they want to say, and
  • Saying it as fast as they can

The ultimate goal of AAC is:

The highest performance communication possible

types of aac solutions
Types of AAC solutions
  • Topic Vocabulary
    • Organized set of symbols and/or text that allows a quick generation of speech
  • Symbolic Aid
    • Communication via symbols such as PCS, PICTO and photos
  • Text-based aid
    • Communication via text (e.g. word prediction, completion etc.)
  • Dynamic
    • Communication via screen changes on selection basis
types of aac devices communication aids
Types of AAC devices: communication aids
  • Growing variety and complexity of communication and computing devices
  • Target: full age range, no economic, ethnic or gender boundaries
  • Communications Devices:
    • SGD: Speech Generating device, used by an individual to communicate more effectively with others, through printed words, speech output, picture or combinations of these.
    • From basic components and fundamental language functions to computer-like functions and control household appliances.
    • Primary or supplementary mode of communication, customizable
aac devices
AAC devices
  • Features and categorization
    • Speech Output - Digitized (recorded human speech) or Synthesized (electronic conversion of text into speech).
    • Message Type - Prerecorded (messages that are stored)

or Message Formulation (can spontaneously create novel messages).

    • Recording Time - less than or equal to 8 minutes, greater than 8 minutes, or based on the memory size of the device in general (e.g., 64 MB card).
    • Access Method - Direct Physical Contact with Device or Multiple Access Methods (e.g., switch, mouse, joystick, etc.).
    • Message Formulation Technique - Spelling only or Spelling and Other Methods.
the role of the speech technology supplier
The role of the Speech Technology Supplier
  • Improve quality and naturalness of speech generation:
    • Improve intelligibility
    • Improve intonation and expressivity
    • Improve flexibility of the overall application
  • Study user requirements with speech therapists and with selected sample of users
  • Identify aspects that could be neglected in usual applications, but could be critical for particular populations of user (e.g. flexibility in speech rate, articulation, etc…)
  • Be able to evaluate and compare the speech technology not only with respect to usual applications (such as navigation, advertising, etc…), but also with respect to more critical requirements
the importance of speech technologies


The importance of speech technologies
  • Scope
    • Allow the most effective communication possible for the individual enabling them to say EXACTLY what they want
  • Important Features
    • Different languages
    • Expressivity
    • Natural sounding
    • High Intelligibility
    • Control
loquendo s experience
Loquendo’s experience

Thanks to

  • Extensive and detailed research on the sector
  • User trials
  • Close partnership with our customers
  • Continuous feedback loops

Has become a leading player on this market

loquendo language offer
Loquendo Language offer

The 2007 roadmap sees the development of 4 new languages

expressive and lifelike voices
Expressive and Lifelike Voices

Loquendo TTS allows for the highly emotive pronunciation, creating extremely natural sounding speech. An easy-to-use prompt editing provides the user a repertoire of "expressive cues".

  • Common phrases and interactions are pronounced with a natural and colorful intonation, to express intention (to confirm, doubt, exclaim, thank, etc.).
  • The same sentence can be pronounced using different styles and intonations, from neutral to emphatic, from sad to amazed.
  • Figures of speech, such as greetings and exclamations ("hello!", "oh no!", 'I'm sorry!"), interactions ("Oh!", "Well!", "Hum"..) and paralinguistic events (e.g. breathing, coughing, laughter, etc.)




LoquendoMixed language capability™

Each of our voices is able to speak any other available language! This means that for example, our Italian voice can speak English with an Italian accent, or a French voice speak German with a French accent. This unique and patented feature is extremely useful for reading when you are out of your home country or simply for reading foreign names in a book or in any text.

underlying feature phonetic mapping
Underlying Feature: Phonetic Mapping
  • Applies the foreign language grapheme-to-phoneme transcription-rules to the foreign text, and then maps the transcribed phonemes onto those of the voice's native language in order to access its acoustic units
  • Approximate Pronunciation (speaker maintains his native-tongue phonological system when pronouncing foreign words)

German Voice

Spanish Voice

French Voice

loquendo s experience real multilingual deployments
Loquendo’s Experience: real multilingual deployments
  • Blind Associations
    • ONCE (Spain)
    • UIC (Italy)
  • Assistive device providers
    • Intaal (Touchspeak)
    • Oralys
    • Onewrite (Cyrano communicator)
    • Code Factory (Mobile Speak)
    • Voice Systems
    • BAUM (Poet)
    • …..
loquendo s experience blind and visually impaired

Italian National

Research Council

Loquendo’s Experience: blind and visually impaired

Official suppliers to the Italian and Spanish National Blind Associations

loquendo s experience aac devices
Loquendo’s Experience: AAC devices

Pen or fingers

Text to Speech

oralys pocket pc communicator
Oralys: Pocket PC Communicator

Pen or fingers

Text to Speech

The Oralys Communicator works on the basis of mental imagery known as, active ideography, combined to multi-sensory elements using sound and symbols. It enables to communicate quickly and effectively, with a simple touch. The Communicator holds over 3.500 ideograms with the possibility of 12.000.000 connections/ sentences.

onewrite cyrano communicator
OneWrite: Cyrano communicator

Cyrano, an augmentative communication device, is a hand-held, portable software application designed to aid individuals with speech-impairments to communicate through a series of customizable images, text, and synthesized voices.

intaal touchspeak typespeak
Intaal: TouchSpeak™ & TypeSpeak™

TouchSpeak is the result of nearly 10 years of on-going development and continuous refinement of the original 1996 PCAD Consortium. TouchSpeak has been specifically designed and developed as an AAC communication aid. Although originally primarily dedicated to people with aphasia, it can comfortably be adapted for either higher more functioning clients, or those with lower cognition and functions

e values e book reader
E-Values e-book reader

E-library Voice AppLication for eUropean blind, Elderly and Sight-impaired

The purpose of the eVALUES service is to improve the possibilities for education and jobs for blind and sight impaired, increasing the assimilation in the society.

eVALUES does this by providing a Trans-European e-Library service based on Internet for Visually Impaired, to improve the access to written material. The service uses Text-To-Speech for the content provisioning on a portable hand-held PDA, which enables mobility.


Luisa Cordano

Sales Manager Embedded Technologies

ph: +39 011 2913442

Thank you for your kind attention.