The US Census Bureau estimates that as many as 720,000 American children aged between 6 and 14-years-old have significant speech problems and difficulties being understood. (1(PDF))
The American children voices, Josh and Ella, were recorded by and for children. Users can select the authentic boy or girl as their preferred Text to Speech voice to speak a want, need or thought using symbol-based communication or typing with word-prediction. The voices are included in the Proloquo2Go App for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch through a new free 2.1 version update released today on the App Store. After December 2012, these new voices will be available for licensing to other developers to utilize in their apps and communication devices, allowing even more children to access programs with voices that resemble their own.
“It is a really exciting advancement in the field of augmentative and alternative communication to finally have excellent, natural-sounding voices for young children,” said Joan Bruno, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Director, Communication Technology Resources.
“This groundbreaking project is the first of its kind in the industry,” said Lars-Erik Larsson, CEO of Acapela Group. “With over 2,500 hours of research, recording, processing and development, the new children’s voices are a fulfilling result and a reflection of our longtime leadership in this field.”
Proloquo2Go already provides a voice to tens of thousands of users around the world. About 60% of the Proloquo2Go user base is 11-years-old or younger (as young as 2-years-old), yet prior to these new voices, children could only select adult voices or artificially emulated children’s voices. This was one of the primary motivators for creating the child voices – to have a product that more accurately represents its users.
“We have already received positive feedback from children and their parents that the unique voice offering in Proloquo2Go makes a positive difference in how they communicate,” said David Niemeijer, founder and CEO of AssistiveWare. “Often, we hear that the cognitive and emotional skills of children are finally understood because prior to using Proloquo2Go, the child may have never been able to verbalize or express his or her thoughts. We are excited that those phrases will finally resemble the child’s own voice.”
The collaboration between Acapela Group and AssistiveWare dates back to 2003 when AssistiveWare was the first company to build a Mac product using the natural-sounding Acapela voices. Both companies share a strong dedication to the assistive technology market and were natural partners to tackle the challenges of developing children’s voices designed for people who cannot speak. Acapela Group brought decades of experience in building natural-sounding Text to Speech voices. AssistiveWare brought its experience in working with people with speech-impairments though its BETT 2011 award-winning Proloquo2Go augmentative and alternative communication app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
Founded in 2000, AssistiveWare has established itself as the worldwide leader in innovative assistive technology software for Mac OS X and iOS. AssistiveWare works in close collaboration with end users and professionals to offer a portfolio of award-winning solutions for individuals with physical, vision, communication, and reading impairments. In 2002, AssistiveWare was the first company to deliver universal access to Mac OS X with the KeyStrokes on-screen keyboard. Always innovating, AssistiveWare was also the first company to release a full-featured Augmentative and Alternative Communication solution for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch – the award-winning app, Proloquo2Go. Recently AssistiveWare released Pictello, an exciting multilingual visual story telling app for iOS.
About Acapela Group
Acapela Group invents speech solutions that bring content to life through giving it a voice in up to 30 languages. More than 60 resounding synthetic, yet natural sounding voices as well as new, authentic American and British children’s voices are ready to vocalize written content into a pleasant audio result. Acapela Group's repertoire includes producing a wide-ranging library of voices including voices that have: accents or specific dialect attributes, singing or storytelling ability, different moods and emphasis, voices for all ages and all languages and recognizable characters or celebrities. Each audio selection is authentic sounding, unique and original, presenting a distinct personality that perfectly matches different contexts. More than just simple vocalization of texts, Acapela Group aims to add a subtle layer of intelligence and significantly enrich audio dimension by offering more meaning and intent to each voice.