Talking Headz: SPeaking and Singing Made Extra Fun

Kids love cause and effect activities.  Pair this up with an activity that encourages talking or even singing, and your entire session will conclude with flying colors. Talking Headz merges these activities together by enabling you to make parodies of each other’s voices.  Not only that: with this really cool app, you can make your own parody MOVIES!

Try downloading this app for free (yes, of course it’s FREE) and tinker with it.  You’ll find that you can:

  • record voices and play it back
  • choose what characters you want to play back your voice with
  • modify your voice recording’s pitch, speaking rate, and resonance
  • use present voice settings (deep, high, robot, monster, overlord, etc.)
  • change characters basing on the voice you have tweaked
  • save as a movie and upload via email or YouTube
  • or save as a movie and share via Facebook or Twitter

The free version of Talking Headz has several preset “headz” for you to tinker with, such as Green Apple, Baby, George Bush III, Chimp, Clown, Tabby Cat, Goldfish, Simon Cowell, Queen Elizabeth, and Spider.  You can download more headz via the App Store at $0.99 each.

What I love about this app:

  • easy-to-use interface
  • preview bar of available headz on the top of the screen
  • one can scroll across headz even during playback
  • customizable voice settings, down to pitch and even resonance
  • preset voices settings

What this app needs to improve on:

  • could use at least four more preset characters (boy, girl, man, woman) for a more functional video playback (family, school, play)
  • eye movements, even generic eye movements to add to each headz’s facial expressions
This app works across iDevices, but for the iPod Touch you will need an external microphone to enable voice recording.

Price: FREE
Weight: 9.0 MB
Updated: 18 September 2010
Version: 1.3
Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad.  Needs iOS 3.0 up.
Seller: Gigabyte Solutions Ltd. @ Gigabyte Solutions Ltd.
Target Population: kids across ages
Awesome if you want to work on:

  • facilitating production of speech
  • facilitating imitation of sounds, target words, target phonemes
  • turn-taking
  • pretend play
  • singing (or encouraging participation in singing)
  • creating and delivering scripts for narratives
  • story-telling, whether read or spontaneously created

Customer Ratings (iTunes): 4 out of 5 smileys
SPeak App says: 4 out of 5 smileys

FREE until December 1! Access Your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch in Real Disk Mode using Phone Disk

Those of us who have grown up on Windows Explorer and/or Mac Finder may slog our way through iTunes, trying to figure out how to copy media into our iDevices or how to remove and archive apps.

For those of you who want the sweet simplicity of drag-dropping, Phone Disk may just be your thing.  Download Phone Disk, install and run it.  Running on very few resources, Phone Disk can simply sit in your computer’s taskbar until such time when you hook up your iDevice via USB cable.  Phone Disk opens your iDevice’s file directory via Explorer, Finder, or using your favorite file manager program.

Two things that makes Phone Disk useful:

  • it can make your iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch act as an external hard drive. Save documents and presentations on your iDevice and access these in a computer with Phone Disk installed.  Edit your files directly and save it again in your iDevice.
  • if you don’t have iTunes in another computer but you installed Phone Disk, mount your iDevice via USB cable, drag-drop pictures and view them in your iDevice.  That easy!

The word “FREE” always enters willing eyes and ears, so fire up your connection and get this program from www.macroplant.com/phonedisk on or before December 1 before it disappears!

Price: FREE
Weight: 1.7 MB (for Windows PC), 6.5 MB (for Mac)
System Requirements: Windows PC:  Windows XP, Vista, or 7 and itunes (8, 9 or later) OR Mac,  Intel processor, Mac OSX 10.5, 10.6 or later, iTunes 8, 9 or later

Version: 1.100 (Windows PC), 1.673 (for Mac)
Devices Recognized: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad.
Seller: Macroplant LLC

iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad? The Budget-Conscious Buyer’s Guide to Choosing the Right iDevice.

We have gotten numerous questions from friends about the differences among the iPhone, iPod Touch, and the iPad and which one is worth getting.  It’s always a tough decision to make for the soon-to-be-iDevice-owner.  For those who ask, we throw back two important questions:

  • What do you need it for?
  • How much moolah are you willing (and able) to cough out?

There are several flowcharts online that aim to help us in making a decision, but none of them really answered the question of affordability.  So, SPeak App made its own decision tree and took into account the following factors:

  • purpose (music, videos, apps, calls, SMS?)
  • budget
  • touchscreen real estate
  • portability
  • safety (in other words, is it risky to bring/use an iDevice in this fair city of ours?)
  • necessity of being online anywhere, anytime
Check out the .pdf version here.
A few disclaimers though:
  • this flowchart is merely a guide and does not take in all of the factors that YOU might have in mind (weight, availability of accessories, differences in app pricing, if it matches your handbag or which one is better at slicing bread)
  • SPeak App is in no way connected to Apple, the Apple Store, or any third party merchants who distribute the said iDevices.  Heck, even if it were, SPeak App would be blogging its own store (if it had one in the first place!!).  IOW, SPeak App can help guide you to making your decision, not coerce you to get a gadget 😉
So, ok, you’ve made a decision already? Ready to buy one?
Next question is where to buy, right?  More importantly, where can you get the best iDevice bargains in town? Or where outside town, if you plan to fly out and do some shopping.

SPeak App’s got a few price quotes researched from a few stores here and in select Asian countries.  Post a comment at the end of this blog if you WANT SPeak App to come up with a price comparison chart. Yep, there’s the Comments section a few centimeters from here. Click on that and post your request.  We just want to know just how many people out there need this sort of info.

Get Your Kid’s Writing Right with the Alphabet Tracing App

This post is especially for all the occupational therapists (OTs) out there.  I promised a friend’s OT friend that for this week, SPeak App will review an OT iOS application.  We have the perfect one right here: Alphabet TracingYour kid client will enjoy tracing letters on your iDevice when you use this app.  Each big letter and number:

  • is drawn in pale blue on the screen
  • has small numbers indicating which stroke to make first
  • has arrows pointing to what direction the stroke must be made

To spice up the app, the developers included strings of trains and caterpillars that run down each stroke to show the child where to move his/her finger to.

The app’s menu bar (located on top of the screen), contains:

  • Settings: change the stroke color, disable/enable sound, show a blank page, help menu
  • Uppercase letters option
  • Lowercase letters option
  • Numbers option
  • Complete Erase option
  • Rewind and Forward arrow buttons

Hold your iPhone / iPod Touch in portrait mode and it shows the character alone (1.5 inches in height for uppercase letters, a little less than 1 inch for lowercase ones).  Tilt to landscape mode and the character is placed on the iPhone / iPod Touch’s right half of the screen while the left half shows a picture that starts with the letter shown or a set of pictures that represent number characters.

The iPad version offers more opportunities to practice tracing.  Whether held on landscape or portrait mode, each page shows the actual letter for tracing (complete with step numbers and arrows), two similar letters in dashed style for more tracing practice, and the corresponding picture.

Since I am not an occupational therapist and could only but describe what the app is capable of, I turned to my OT friends at the clinic who were only too happy to take on Alphabet Tracing and offer their insights.

What they love about this app:

  • visible: nice, big characters
  • customizable: pencil and letter line sizes, even tracing marks’ colors can be adjusted according to one’s preferences
  • associated with pictures: comes with a corresponding picture to help in concept building
  • responsive to user’s fingerstrokes: one does not need to be able to trace on the letter’s lines alone.  There’s room for tracing errors.  Technically one can make a mark anywhere on the screen.
  • has a blank page option: allows the child to practice writing the characters without tracing

What could be added to this app to enhance usability at work:

  • guide lines: rather like the ones we find on elementary school pad paper.  Even lines on the top and bottom of each character would have sufficed, they said, just so to define the borders of the writing area.
  • options on where strokes can start: my OT buds noticed that most of the app’s strokes started from the top of the page, which involved lifting one’s finger off the screen to start another stroke when continuing the present stroke and progressing in an upward fashion would have been functional enough.  Letters in question: E  M  N  V  W.  The stroke directions of the rest of the characters garnered their approval. But then again, as the saying goes, different strokes for different folks… pun intended.
  • overlapping train/caterpillar movement: may visually confuse the child and compromise ability to follow the stroke’s direction

From my end, what I like about this app is that one can opt for it to voice out the letter/number being shown.  The child can also tap on the picture and it says out the picture’s name.  Oh yeah, the moving caterpillar’s really cute =)

App’s free, folks!  We will always find uses for free, well-made apps.

Price: FREE
Weight: 7.9 MB
Updated: 7 July 2010
Version: 1.1
Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad.  Needs iOS 3.0 up
Seller: Oncilla Technologies

Target Population: young kids especially those who are prepping for writing

Awesome if you want to work on:

  • writing
  • visual attention
  • visual association
  • visual recognition
  • concept building

Customer Ratings (iTunes): 3.5 out of 5 smileys
SPeak App says: 3.5 out of 5 smileys

The “Voice of New York” SPeaks About the iPad’s Usefulness for Individuals with Disabilities

It was such a pleasant surprise to see Winston Cheng appear in the New York Times’ video feature of Owen Cain and his use of the iPad.  Winston Cheng, M.S., CCC-SLP is the section chief of the Speech-Language Pathology section of the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, works as a speech-language pathologist at the Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Research Center at the Columbia University, teaches at Adelphi University and Pace University, and is the owner of “Voice of New York,” a private consultation company for voice and swallowing disorders.  He, along with his friends, also started TherapyLibrary, an online resource for physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology.

He’s also from the University of the Philippines-Manila, by the way, and is very active in research.

The iPad is one of the more superior devices we have out there in the market for patients with disabilities to assist them intheir daily activities,” he said. “I think that the more people use these devices, the awareness of the public relating to these lower-cost alternatives improves, then I am also hoping that the insurance companies would have an open mind in terms of covering these types of devices.

It is really amazing to see people like Owen Cain use the iPad despite their movement difficulties.  As the New York Times article had indicated, studies are being made to assess the effectiveness of iDevices in therapy.

Now that is one research project I would love to be part of someday. 😉

The iPad as a Therapeutic Tool

The New York Times had featured little Owen Cain, a seven-year old boy with spinal muscular atrophy, using an iPad.  Because of the iPad’s multitouch screen, it has managed to be a well-used therapeutic tool among individuals with disabilities like Owen.  Basing on the article, it seems that spending $600 on an iPad plus $200 on software is a much cheaper option than other augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices that more often than not have limited features.

Text-to-speech applications installed on an iPad can be used by individuals who otherwise have difficulty talking but can be trained to use AAC devices.  One such app is Proloquo2Go, an AAC app that can be installed on an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.  With a default vocabulary of 7000 items, text-to-speech capabilities, options to expand lexicon, it will be no surprise if Proloquo2Go finds its way to the iDevices of many speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists.  There are several apps like Proloquo2Go, even apps that can target a variety of intervention goals:  narratives, pragmatics, comprehension, syntax, semantics, word retrieval, concept-building… heck, they even have an app that turns an iDevice into a fairly dependable stethoscope!  I kid you not.  It’s called iStethoscope.

Read more on Owen and about people like him at the New York Times. As for you lovely people who have been wondering what the iPad, or even as basic as the iPod Touch, can do for you and your work with individuals with disabilities, three words: start saving up, because the compatibility between iDevices and special education / individuals with disabilities is here to stay.  While you’re saving up, beef up on your AAC background and see who among your clients can possibly use your future iDevice.  Now, I’m not saying you go starve yourself and buy Proloquo2Go soon.  There are other options out there like MyTalkTools Mobile.  Again, this comes with a price, but not as much as Proloquo2Go does.

And by the time you’ve saved up enough for a basic iPad (wifi, 32gb), maybe by that time iPad 2.0 is already out 😉  I’m kidding, of course… but who knows?

VLC Media Player’s Days are Numbered in the App Store

First Apple allows the free app VLC Media Player to be in the App Store for download, then they want it out. VLC Media Player is an open source multimedia player, and the developer might need to yank it out because Apple is “violating GNU public license under which VLC is released by applying DRM to it.” Apparently Apple wants to be consistent in the tight controls it maintains in their mobile applications platform.

For those of you who’s experienced so much frustration over the different video formats scattered on the web, VLC makes life simpler by letting you play virtually videos in any format.

While it’s free for download for Windows and Mac, it may not last that long for download in the App Store. If you are fond of playing lots of videos on your iDevice and find VLC Media Player pretty useful in your desktop/laptop, download it for your iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad soon before it vanishes. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop