Augmentative communication device design, implementation and evaluation

Plant, Richard Robert

April 1996

Thesis or dissertation

© 1996 Richard Robert Plant. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The ultimate aim of this thesis was to design and implement an advanced software based Augmentative Communication Device (ACD) , or Voice Output Communication Aid NOCA), for non-vocal Learning Disabled individuals by applying current psychological models, theories, and experimental techniques. By taking account of potential user's cognitive and linguistic abilities a symbol based device (Easy Speaker) was produced which outputs naturalistic digitised human speech and sound and makes use of a photorealistic symbol set. In order to increase the size of the available symbol set a hypermedia style dynamic screen approach was employed. The relevance of the hypermedia metaphor in relation to models of knowledge representation and language processing was explored.

Laboratory based studies suggested that potential user's could learn to productively operate the software, became faster and more efficient over time when performing set conversational tasks. Studies with unimpaired individuals supported the notion that digitised speech was less cognitively demanding to decode, or listen to.

With highly portable, touch based, PC compatible systems beginning to appear it is hoped that the otherwise silent will be able to use the software as their primary means of communication with the speaking world. Extensive field trials over a six month period with a prototype device and in collaboration with user's caregivers strongly suggested this might be the case.

Off-device improvements were also noted suggesting that Easy Speaker, or similar software has the potential to be used as a communication training tool. Such training would be likely 10 improve overall communicative effectiveness.

To conclude, a model for successful ACD development was proposed.

Department of Psychology, The University of Hull
Rostron, Andrew
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