“What would you like me to put on your sandwich?” This may seem to be a simple everyday question, but a hard one to answer when you have a speech disorder. The Hague-based online agency DutchGiraffe developed an iPad application that helps people with speech disorders to communicate more easily – and is about to conquer the international healthcare market.
Cheap and easy-to-use speech app conquers healthcare market
It all started with Tim, who is mentally handicapped and unable to speak. In order to be able to communicate, Tim depends on an expensive voice computer. But when a new caretaker was assigned to Tim, he had to send off his voice computer to the supplier so that the new caretaker’s name could be entered into the system. Tim had to get by without his voice computer for four weeks.
Triggered by Tim’s story, DutchGiraffe developed a user-friendly alternative: an iPad application. “Many people own an iPad,” DutchGiraffe’s Mark Passtoors says. “So it’s readily available. Also, the iPad offers many functionalities that contribute to communicating more easily, such as taking pictures and videos, searching the Internet, as well as its voice recording option. When we developed the application, we simply used the functionalities at hand.”
The iPad screen shows different images of words and sentences that may come in handy. When asked what he wants to eat on his sandwich today, Tim simply taps the image of the peanut butter jar on his screen. The iPad now plays the sound of the voice computer pronouncing the word “peanut butter”. If Tim turns out to develop a love for Nutella instead, the option can be added to the screen easily and quickly.
“The application’s flexibility is what sets it apart from existing voice computers,” Passtoors says. “This application allows its user to add an endless amount of new options. When Tim developed a knack for Dutch folk singer André Hazes, his mom was able to add his picture to the iPad application, just like that. When Tim went to a birthday party that he really enjoyed, his caretaker added a group picture and included the names of all the guests, so that Tim could go back and look at the picture as often as he wanted.”
Peace of mind
The application is called Eline spreekt (Eline speaks), as a tribute to Tim’s caretaker, and DutchGiraffe has big ambitions when it comes to bringing it to market. “We know that there are thousands of people, in the Netherlands alone, whose lives would change drastically if they could use a voice computer,” says Passtoors. “Only a small portion of those people actually are granted an expensive voice computer by their insurance companies. Instead, this iPad application costs only 99 Euros annually. That’s a small amount of money in return for the peace of mind that results when you feel like you’re understood by the people around you.”