Friday, October 21, 2011

Dragon Dictation

Dragon Dictation is the free app by Nuance, the software company that produces Dragon Naturally Speaking, a speech-to-text program that uses voice voice recognition for people who have an easier time speaking out their thoughts than to type.   It's a program that is highly regarded in the assistive technology market.

Basically, Dragon Dictation is their app version of Dragon Naturally Speaking. 

I tested it out because while I communicate better by writing or typing, when I'm writing assignments, sometimes I have to write my thoughts by hand and then it takes more time to type it up.  Which usually leads me to procrastinate for long periods, or else I get distracted because I've already written it down and don't want to "write" it all again.   I thought that maybe I could use Dragon Dictation to speed up the process and improve my productivity. 

I chose Dragon Dictation because I have friends who use Dragon Naturally Speaking, and have given the software very good reviews.  Also, reviews elsewhere have been good, it supports multiple languages, and there's built in social networking features to post to Twitter and Facebook. 

So I gave it a try. 

And came across some problems. 

Dragon Dictation requires a wifi connection, which I know for sure isn't always available everywhere and very much depends on location. 

Also, it requires clear and concise dictation.   I tested it both in a noisy location, which gave poor results every time, in a quiet location with no background noise, which gave half good results, and in a quiet location with some music playing quietly, which gave half good results.  Speaking as clearly and concise as I could in both quiet locations made no difference to the results; only about half of my words were being translated properly into text. 

Depending on how I am feeling on going through my dictation and editing, this could be beneficial or else it could make little difference to my productivity.  Either way, it demonstrates an inconsistent method of productivity in my schoolwork. 

I think that unless a person has very good speaking and dictation, that this app is not appropriate for most Autistic individuals. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Yoga Sound

Yoga Sound is originally to help focus while doing Yoga, and has claims to also help people relax, deal with stress, and get to sleep.  By developer George Talusan, the app is $0.99 in the iTunes App store.  Talusan also has other, very similar looking apps for a range of prices, some of which are free off and on, and seem to be the same thing repackaged over and over again.

The app itself is a very simple media player with pre-loaded sound clips of ocean surfs, birds, waterfalls, rain and other such sounds.  It will only play these clips and other sounds that can be purchased for $0.99 each.  

What I found is that while I liked the free clips available, the player pauses if I move out of the app, or if the ipod goes into safe mode.  Which is really annoying, and it doesn't look like there is an option menu to change it.  

I think that what would be a better alternative to this app is to purchase music you find to be relaxing, add it to your regular player, such as itunes, and just have it on repeat. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Talk Assist

Talk Assist is an alternative speech speech aid that provides a voice through text-to-speech software.  It's created by Mubaloo and is free on the iTunes App store.  I know that it's compatible on iPhone, iPod and iPad, but I'm not entirely certain of whether it's available for other devices. 

Now, I'm usually somewhat functional verbally, so I'm not sure how this app works for daily interactions for non-verbal Autistics.  I did run Talk Assist through scenarios where I lose verbal skills and need to use alternative methods of communication. I was able to type in and save several sentences and phrases for future use, making them easier to access in an emergency. 

I found that the controls are simple and user friendly.  I didn't quite like the voice, which is a rather mechanical male voice lacking punctuation.  However, I think that it is a suitable app for at least temporary non-verbal Autistic adults. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Developing Apps for Autistic Adults

First and foremost, I want to apologize to my regular readers for the lack of updates lately.  I've never been good at being consistent at the best of times, and being in school adds a whole 'nother level of distraction for me.  The two courses that I'm taking are online, which apparently means that it requires a lot of feedback, which, given my learning disabilities, becomes problematic.  As well as new opportunities to test some apps, but that's a different post.

Second, I was recently contacted by Johanna Manikiza, asking my help and advise about apps for Autistic adults.  She is an ASD Regional Support Officer at the Social Services Improvement Agency in Wales, UK. Her team supports the implementation of the Strategic Action Plan for ASD, and they are looking into the use of mobile phone apps to support Autistic Adults.  They have been able to secure funding to develop an app, and was thinking about developing one to support sequencing daily activities.

However, they've decided to gain feedback and suggestions from the Autistic community, and contacted me due to a comment on one of my blogs about the need for a social skills app to support Autistics in adulthood.  Johanna has asked for both my input, and the input of others that I know.

I want to say thank you to Johanna and her team, for making the step to include us in decisions and supports for us.  It demonstrates true community-building attitudes that can really make a difference.

As for my readers and fellow Autistics, this is a chance for us to work with others to support one another.   I highly recommend getting in touch with Johanna's team with your suggestions and advise about developing apps to support Autistic adults.

They can be contacted at ASDinfo @, and would appreciate any feedback that we can provide them. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


EpicWin is a playful productivity app, created by Rebox.  It costs $2.99 US, and has to be the most effective to-do list on my iPod.

I first heard about it online, through Twitter, I think, as an effective to-do list that combines productivity with the fun and adventure of a role-playing game.  Since I didn't have an iPod or iPad at the time, I put it on the list of things that would be cool, and forced myself to continue in conventional to-do lists.

When I did get my iPod, it was one of the first Apps I bought, and it has served me well.  I have my own character, whom I level up by collecting experience points from completing tasks, or "quests", on my daily list. Not only that, but I also collect gold and loot, which gives me an immediate reward for my work.  The instant gratification then encourages me to complete more "quests". 

On really productive days, I've been able to complete two days worth of tasks, just because I have an easier way to keep track of what I need to do, and a fun way to cross them off my list.  So I've found that part of the app to work.

I also found that EpicWin is easy to use as well, and since the developers keep updating it, continues to increase effectiveness, especially, I find, with adding and organizing new tasks. 

Tasks/Quests are organized by when they're due, including Overdue and Whenever spots. When adding a new task, there are options on when it's due, to add an alarm, how much epic-ness the task is worth, and the type of feat it is: Strength, Stamina, Intellect, Social, and Spirit, which corresponds to your character's abilities and works towards the character's leveling-up.

What's also handy is the option to have tasks repeat, and if so, how often.  I know that I have a list of daily repeating tasks to remind me to do things like shower, take meds, brush my teeth, and exercise, as well as tasks that repeat every few days, like wash dishes and vacuum.  Combined with other one-time tasks, like calling specific people, or return library books, I've been able to become more productive than I was with paper and other app to-do lists that overwhelmed me. 

Therefore, I highly recommend this app, maybe not even just for Autistic adults, but for Autistic children and youth who are developing independent skills, or want to be more organized and remember what they need to do.  It combines a very easy to use interface with clear due dates, and fun instant-rewards.

Monday, January 24, 2011

FastMall App

I've been meaning to review this for a while, but it's taken me some time because I wanted to test it out in different cities and locations. FastMall is a free interactive navigation app, designed to be used by parents with strollers, people with wheelchairs or other physical disabilities, or anyone who's in a new mall and is feeling lost.

I actually talked to the creator of the app, Sam Feuer, who first thought of the app when in a strange mall and his wife desperately needed to find a washroom. Realizing that others could benefit from it, Feuer proceeded to develop this very nifty app.

After testing it out, I think that FastMall has great potential for Autistic adults by giving them a very reliable map with turn-by-turn instructions on how to get places.  After downloading a mall's map, I used the instructions to navigate the mall very well and was very impressed by how detailed the instructions and reference landmarks it gave. 

I did have some problems, mainly with learning how to operate the app, and then with finding maps in its database.  Both of these problems can be overcome with time, I think, by becoming familiar with the app, and by increasing the locations in the database. 

Overall, I'm very positive about this app, as it is seeking to expand not only for malls, but other locations such as hospitals, airports, convention centers and theme parks.  With a well-established database, I think that FastMall is very handy for adults to be more confident going to new locations, or assisting in familiar locations where sudden stress has caused a loss of navigational skills, or even just has forgotten the layout of places. 

I'm looking forward to FastMall's expansions.