Proloquo4Text: Rooted in a long tradition

Sometimes our greatest sources of inspiration come from our past. Proloquo4Text is a brand new app but stands in a long AssistiveWare tradition. People who first learned of AssistiveWare through our symbol-supported Proloquo2Go app may not realize it, but our roots lie in developing solutions for literate individuals with developmental or acquired disabilities. We originally started out creating Mac software providing full computer access to individuals with physical disabilities with applications such as KeyStrokes, our on-screen keyboard, and SwitchXS, our switch access solution for Mac OS X.
 
Proloquo4Text combines the best of Proloquo, our original Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) solution designed primarily for literate users, KeyStrokes, with its advanced word prediction, GhostReader, our multilingual document and selection reader with word highlighting, and Proloquo2Go, with its support for multiple users. With Proloquo4Text we have created a multilingual, word and sentence prediction supported AAC app fully optimized for people who can read and write.

Insight and inspiration

While Proloquo2Go also offers a Typing View with word prediction, it is more geared towards people developing literacy skills or transitioning from symbols to full reading and writing proficiency. Still, Proloquo2Go has been widely adopted by literate AAC users as well. Over the years, we have had many opportunities to observe first-hand how these individuals use Proloquo2Go. At these occasions, we were able to discuss their needs, find inspiration and develop ideas to better serve literate AAC users. Two examples are Chuck and Lisa.

Chuck

Chuck, who you can see in this video, has ALS and uses Proloquo2Go as his "voice". He speaks using a combination of commonly used phrases, which he has pre-programmed in the Proloquo2Go Grid View, and typing what he wants to say aided by the word prediction in the Typing View. Due to his illness, he benefits from the word prediction because he cannot type fast with his stylus.
 
Chuck's video - Still enjoying our time together Lisa's video - Just an ordinary day
Chuck - Still enjoying our time together Lisa - Just an ordinary day

Lisa

While Chuck uses a combination of Grid View and Typing View, Lisa does not. Instead she  types out everything she wants to say in Typing View, as you can see in this video. Lisa types very fast and has historically made little use of word prediction as she finds seeing what words are suggested takes more time than typing them.

Catering to individual communication styles

When developing Proloquo4Text, we wanted to cater to these and other communication styles by consolidating all Proloquo4Text communication features into a single screen without the need to switch back and forth between phrases, prediction and typing.
 
Proloquo4Text on iPad
 

Quick Blocks

By default there are Quick Blocks on both sides of the Text Pad (when iPad is in landscape mode). Each of these Quick Blocks can hold one or more functions: Word Prediction, Sentence Prediction, Phrases, Quick Talk and History.

Word Prediction

Word prediction can be displayed horizontally above the keyboard, but also vertically in one of the Quick Blocks. Both word prediction and sentence prediction are self-learning so there is no need to manually add words or sentences. Users can customize which Quick Blocks are shown/hidden or set them to a single side for a larger Text Pad.

Phrases

Phrases is designed to provide a set of customizable categories with phrases the user commonly speaks. Proloquo4Text makes it easy to create a bank of phrases and sentence starters that can be inserted into the Text Pad with a single tap.

Quick Talk

Quick Talk is by default displayed in a grid and is intended for things said very often or commonly interjected into a conversation, such as “Thank you”, “How are you?” and “Can you help me?”

History

History enables you to quickly access text that you have said before — especially useful for daily visits to Starbucks (sugar-free-double-shot-vanilla-white-chocolate-soy-decaf-Mocha with cream… please).

Customize

All Quick Blocks can be set up to insert messages into the Text Pad or to speak messages immediately for quick communication without affecting an existing message in the Text Pad. The Quick Blocks are also customizable, allowing you to edit, create, cut, copy and paste content to suit your communication needs.
 
Wherever you go
For even more flexibility, Proloquo4Text can be used on multiple devices without extra costs: an iPad for home, school or office and an iPod touch or iPhone when out and about. Through Dropbox (or iTunes File Sharing) backups of your customizations and phrases can be transferred between devices. But there is more. We optimized the user interface for iPhone so that even on the small screen you have a highly optimized communication solution.

Speeding up conversation

We know that to keep communication partners engaged, it is important to be able to converse at a certain speed. An AAC solution is never going to be as quick and easy as natural speech; so speed-enhancing features became a primary focus. Besides having single screen access to all the Quick Blocks and typing, we also further enhanced our PolyPredix™ word prediction engine, originally designed for KeyStrokes. Our new PolyPredix™ 3 word prediction engine reduces the number of keystrokes the user needs to type by over 50% out of the box. As the system learns more about your writing, it can reduce the number of keystrokes up to 75%.

Reducing effort

While word prediction may not increase typing speed (as you need to see if a word is suggested and then select it), our PolyPredix™ word prediction system does considerably reduce effort, supporting a much higher sustained communication speed. By default Proloquo4Text is set to show 5 suggestions at a time, but the user can increase or decrease that value as needed. Faster typists may show 2 to 4 suggestions at a time, while slower typists can increase the number of suggestions to as many as can fit on the screen.

Optimized prediction dictionaries

In addition to a new prediction engine we created brand new, optimized prediction dictionaries for American English, British English, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Italian and Portuguese with a special focus on spoken communication. For other languages Proloquo4Text 1.0 does not yet include prediction dictionaries but will learn as the user types, building up a dictionary over time. The updated word prediction system can reduce the number of keystrokes over 50% out-of-the-box.

Designed for more than English

Coming from a small country where we speak a language spoken by a small fraction of the world’s population, multilingual support ranked high on the priority list for Proloquo4Text. So we designed Proloquo4Text from the ground up to support multiple languages. Version 1.0 is localized in English, French, German, Spanish and Dutch, but supports 10 additional languages through its free downloadable, natural-sounding Text to Speech voices. We plan to support even more languages in subsequent updates.

Switching between languages

However, we want to take multilingual one step further. With just a single tap on the globe icon in the iOS keyboard, users can switch to another language. You can even let the Text Pad read back sentences written in multiple languages and Proloquo4Text will automatically detect the languages and read each sentence with the right voice.

User experiences

We provided a beta version of Proloquo4Text to Chuck and Lisa to see if we had succeeded in our goal of creating an app that would serve them even better than Proloquo2Go has done for the last couple of years.

Chuck says:

"Proloquo4Text permits me to use custom phrases more or less tailored to an event or situation in a more efficient and conversational manner. This makes me more comfortable in situations that used to bother me. It retains features I find very useful in Proloquo2Go, such as background color. I found using Proloquo4Text on my iPod touch as easy as using it on iPad. In summary, as one that has used text to speech programs on iOS and Windows devices, I give Proloquo4Text high marks, especially for users like me."

Lisa says:

"I have found the transition from Proloquo2Go to Proloquo4Text quite easy. I am now starting to make up my own frequently used words and statements with abbreviations - this feature alone is making communication even more efficient. I have noticed that I am using the prediction more in Proloquo4Text. I also like that I can pause my preprogrammed spiel at anytime, move the cursor to where I want to resume from, and follow the text visually with the highlighted words. This highlighting is also useful when engaging with my son, as he is recognizing more words as a beginner reader."

And now it is your turn

We are extremely proud that after two years of hard work, we are now presenting you the first version of Proloquo4Text. We hope you enjoy the app, and look forward to hearing about your experiences and how we can continue to better serve your needs.
 
So type, speak and communicate with Proloquo4Text!
 
David Niemeijer
Founder & CEO AssistiveWare

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