IconSpeakÔ - FAQ

Assistive Communication Aid Software for People with Impaired Speech


Using the very latest, highly portable Pocket PC’s, IconSpeak software is designed to speak messages for the user whose speech is not easily intelligible and for whom manual signing is limited or ineffective.  It uses normal spoken voice and a vocabulary of easily recognized icons. Using a touch sensitive screen, the messages it can speak can be single words, short phrases or sentences, or the user can create short sentences by touching two or more icons in sequence.  It has the potential to store and give easy access to a vast vocabulary of words, phrases and sentences.

IconSpeak Software consists of two distinct computer programs:- 

·    IconSpeak which runs on a Pocket PC operating under Windows CE V2, V3; Pocket PC 2002/3 and Windows Mobile 5 & 6 Operating Systems.

·    IconSpeak Configuration Utility which runs on a Multimedia PC operating under Windows 98/ME, NT4.0, Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Vista (See Tech support notes).

The purpose of the IconSpeak Configuration Utility is to install and configure IconSpeak on the Pocket PC.

The diagram below shows a typical hardware set-up for IconSpeak configuration.

The Pocket PC is linked using its docking station to the Windows PC. The PC must have the ability to record and play sounds.

How portable is it?

IconSpeak is designed to run on the new Pocket PC’s, which are able to fit into a pocket.  This makes IconSpeak, unlike most available communication aids, ideal for people who are mobile.  Pocket PCs are lightweight and robust. They are easy to hold and operate. To prevent any damage, however, they are best kept in a small carrying case, which can fit into a pocket, or attach to a belt.  The case can be worn like a small shoulder or neck purse so that it is immediately accessible for use in the ‘purse’ without the danger of dropping it, even when walking. Users should then be able to hold the Pocket PC in one hand and operate it with the other, although it can of course still be operated if set on a table top or other surface.

Who could use IconSpeak?

·         Adolescents and adults with learning difficulties and motor speech disorders

·         Adults with expressive dysphasia, whose visual perceptual skills are reasonably intact, and who are able to point with reasonable accuracy

·         People who have undergone laryngectomy and require a handy assistive communication device not reliant upon the airway

·         Adults suffering from a progressive, or degenerative disorder whose speech is becoming impaired

·         People with severe expressive communication difficulties who are considering purchasing more complex, expensive devices but who require a “stepping stone” to consider their suitability as a user or to assess the usefulness of an assistive device for their needs

·         Speech and language therapists/teachers working with clients with expressive speech/language difficulties - for assessment, educational and therapeutic needs

·         Speech and language therapists working in the acute phase with adults who have undergone vocal tract surgery or have sustained a CVA or brain injury

·         Speech and language therapy departments, which assess client suitability for assistive devices.

What should Users be able to manage?

·         Recognize simple coloured or black/white visual images (photos, symbols, pictures) maximum size 25cm x 29cm

·         Touch point with reasonable accuracy on the touch screen (unless using adaptations)

·         Understand spoken language at the three year age equivalent as a minimum level of ability

·         Use categorization skills, or learn to categorize within at least broad subject areas

How does IconSpeak work?

IconSpeak is operated by touch screen displays of icons - pictures, symbols, writing and photographs. As you touch the screen, it speaks your chosen message.  The number of icons on the screen at any one time is programmed to suit the user, from six to twenty four.  Double tapping on an icon can give an extra message.  For example, you might wish to say “Thank-you”, with one tap or touch, and be more emphatic with a double tap/touch, saying “Thank you very much”.  In this way, you can store as many as 48 phrases or words on one screen if you wish.

Messages can be single words or short phrases.  They can be a complete message, such as “I would like some tea, please”, or they can form part of a sentence, for example, “I like “.

The screen displays can be linked to form categories of your choice.  For example, you may wish to have a large number of food vocabulary items listed.  These can be displayed screen by screen, by scrolling through the category using the arrow icons.

What Icons are available?

The Icons provided as standard with IconSpeak software include symbols, computer aided drawings and clipart.  The library of Icons available on release of the software is over 700.  These cover a wide range of everyday categories, such as personal messages and comments, greetings, activities, actions, shopping, food, transport, special events, and concepts (colour, number etc).  To enable easier identification, the more abstract concepts have been designed with a system of colours and shapes to represent different message or function types, e.g. negatives such as “No!” or “Go away!” use predominantly red and black.  Additional Icon libraries will be available in the near future at a small extra charge.

IconSpeak can use third party symbol libraries for which you have a license and as long as the symbols are in .bmp, .jpg, .gif or .wmf format.

Can the Icons be personalized?

Yes, you can provide some or even all of them yourself.  IconSpeak Configuration Utility links through to Microsoft Paint Program to enable you to edit or create icons as required.

Provided you have suitable drawing and scanning software on your own computer, you can use your own personal photographs, scanned images, drawings, computer generated drawings or existing symbol software, or even a combination of them all. 

What about Screen Layout?

Using the software you will easily be able to design your own layout to suit your, or your client’s needs.

By using the IconSpeak Configuration Utilities drag and drop functionality you can select and arrange how the icons will appear on the Pocket PC.  You can choose to start with just one or two pages of icons, and gradually increase the number as the user becomes familiar with the layout. Alternatively you can set it up with full functionality from the start.   

What kinds of voices are available?

IconSpeak software provides a sound library as standard to complement the icon library.  There are  voices available in UK English for female and male teenager and female and male adults; US English for female and male adult and child; Swedish for female and male teenager and female and male adults.

Can I make up my own Sound Library?

Yes, it is a particularly strong feature of IconSpeak software that you can personalize the voice to really suit the user.  Friends and family could provide the voice; it’s up to you to choose.  All you need is a word / phrase / sentence list, a microphone of reasonable quality and preferably someone whose diction is reasonably clear with good intonation patterns.

How many Icons and Sounds can a Pocket PC hold?

It depends on which Pocket PC you purchase; however a typical Pocket PC has 32 or 64Mb of RAM to store programs, Icons and Sounds.

An Icon is typically 7K, and the average sound file is 10K.  If the Pocket PC were only used for IconSpeak, 16Mb would hold approximately 900 Icons and their associated Sounds. If longer phrases or full sentences are recorded, it may be helpful to know that ½ hour of recorded speech takes just under 20Mbytes of storage (i.e. 11Kbytes per second).

Should more than the standard storage be required, Pocket PC’s can be enhanced with an add-in compact memory card. These range from 64Mb to 1Gb.

What Skills do I need to set up IconSpeak on a Pocket PC?

You need to be familiar with operating Windows software and be able to use a mouse.  IconSpeak software comes with full instructions to configure and install on to your Pocket PC as well as comprehensive instructions for personalizing the icon and sound libraries.

As a User, can I go it alone?

We would strongly advise any User to consult with a fully qualified and registered Speech and Language Therapist who has specialist knowledge and skills either within the area of Augmentative and Alternative Communication Aids or is a specialist in the type of disability of the User.  The advice you might need would be:

·         Suitability of IconSpeak for your needs

·         Vocabulary/phrase/sentence requirements to suit your needs

·         Style and suitability of icons (e.g. symbols, clipart, print)

·         Arrangement/selection of categories and screen layout

·         Support/training for User and Carers.

Specialist technical and therapeutic advice is also available from Bostock Software Development and Consultancy, from qualified practitioners, for an extra charge.

Can the Pocket PC be used for anything else?

Yes, providing this does not interfere with the client’s ability to use IconSpeak, the Pocket PC could also run a wide range of applications such as:-

·         Diary/calendar

·         Contacts

·         Creating documents and folders

·         Note taking

·         Pocket finance and spreadsheets

·         Calculator

·         Synchronization with PC

·         Connecting to the Internet

·         E-mail

·         Games

·         MP3 music player

·         Movie video playback

·         Remote control of home entertainment equipment

·         Other third-party software available over the Internet

Can IconSpeak work with a Click/Scan switch?

Yes, IconSpeak can operate a Click/Scan switch. An optional cable is required.

I don’t have a Windows PC. Can I still use IconSpeak?

Yes, IconSpeak software installed on a Pocket PC and configured to your requirements is available from one of our distributors. See the last question for further details.

Can I run IconSpeak on a Desktop, Laptop or Tablet PC?

Yes, IconSpeak is also now available for a standard PC (e. Laptop, Tablet or Desktop). Because of the larger screen size, this version can support up to 96 Icons per page and has full sentence construction.

Can I evaluate IconSpeak before I buy?

Yes, IconSpeak can be tried before you buy. It is restricted so that the 2nd row of Icons will ‘beep’ instead of playing the correct sound, and the program will end after 10 minutes operation. Purchasing a Client license and entering it into the IconSpeak Configuration Utility will enable its full use.

How do I obtain IconSpeak?

A full CD Image containing the latest version of IconSpeak is available to download from our web site, and can be purchased directly from Bostock Software Development & Consultancy Ltd by calling +44 (0)870 744 1521, or use our Email Enquiry Form. Please see our distributors page for non-english version.