UB Talker is an augmentative text to speech device for users with very limited speech and motor skills. UB Talker can be used with a variety of augmentative switches and clickers available off the shelf. These people face tremendous challenges to communicate with others since their options are very limited. Most of them resort to no communication at all or depend entirely on their care taker for “guessing” their needs. There were some devices in the market that offered a slightly better experience and assisted in the communication process but they had their challenges. I received an undergraduate research grant for this project and a recognition on the university’s website here.
I came to know about this problem during my undergraduate CS department orientation based on a conversation with a CS professor. This is how the Android based UB Talker got started. I proposed and led this project as a research assistant with a team size varying of 3-5 people. The goal of this project was twofold – A) Bring the cost of the device to as low as possible B) Make the device highly personalized to the user’s needs
A] The competing product on the market at the time, in 2010, cost about $3000. There were other cheaper alternatives offered by the same company but they were extremely basic in capabilities.
B] Alternatives in the market were still stuck in pre-mobile app era and had slow softwares running on low powered windows based machines.
Through close collaboration with patients affected by stroke, paralysis, aging related illnesses or other causes, we managed to get a detailed understanding of their limitations and needs. We designed UB Talker is very small increments, taking small steps, spending extended time on the feedback phase and iterating again. Our prototype included features such as Auto Keyboard Layout, that automatically adapted and recommended best layout based on user’s needs. We enhanced word, phrase and sentence prediction by adding factors such as time, location, frequency and other usage history of the user.
- There were several other improvements in UB Talker compared to its peers but the two features alone, mentioned above, improved text input efficiency by over 70% in our user tests and average sentence length spoken by the users increased by over 180%.
- Our prototype cost us a little over $300, roughly 1/10th the cost of a competing product on the market.