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Jul 28, 2007
Hi, Everyone!
I've done a search here and gone back and read old posts about this topic but wonder if anyone has anything to add.
Unfortunately I'm past the point of voice banking.
I've read about ERICA and Eyegaze, both of which use vision tracking. Is that hard to control? Seems like a good option in case one progresses to point of not being able to use hands or control head. Neither say they have the newest AT&T voices. Do they sound really unnatural?
Also came across Dynavox so looked it up on the internet. Is anyone using it?
Any other device you like or dislike? I expect to order something within a month and your input is greatly appreciated.
Hi Ilgal -

Don't know where you live in Illinois - but we just completed a 2 hour overview on speech generating equipment and switches to operate them. We went to the Technology Center at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Saw a wide array of devices and and technology - got to work with all of them. There are head mouses, eye tracking cameras, cheeck switches, neuro-switches, all kins of things. One software package is useable on any computer (Word Power) and has an ALS version.

Look up the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago on the Web - and contact the Speech people. Maybe they can tell you where to find similar help. They work with 4 to 5 ALS patients a week and seemed very positive.

Good luck - Beth

I am in the exact same situation, as I have been researching AAC's lately and came here to get some insight as well. Your post was the first I saw, and haven't even searched for any past articles yet.

I recently went into my clinic speech pathologist for a consult and had a chance to touch/feel several devices. By far the most advanced and flexible was the ERICA system. They actually had a rep there to do a demo and I got to "play" with it. Very cool technology, and when it was calibrated it was spot on. I came away very encouraged and hopeful that I will have some means of sufficient communication down the line. Main concern (and only so far) was that I had to recalibrate several times. It very well may be a non-issue because I was unconsciously moving my head out of the eye-camera view (which you can see on screen). However, I'm not 100% certain. It's easy and relatively quick to recalibrate (1-2 minutes), however, could be a bit annoying if needing to constantly do it. Because I was only using it for 15 minutes and for the first time, I think I'll chalk it up to initial adjustment.

Like Beth recommends above, I would suggest doing something similar to what the both of us have up with a speech path. and have them give a hands-on demo of several products. That very well may help you narrow your search to certain technology...which could make things a bit easier.

I'll also say here if anyone else has any experience with any eye tracking systems (like ERICA) I'm sure ilgal AND I would certainly appreciate! :)

PS Mike
I appreciate both of your replies. Beth, I wish I were near enough to go to the Rehab Institute, but I'm way down south almost to KY.

I had an appointment back in Dec. with the clinic speech pathologist and was very disappointed. She showed me several things like Lightwriter, but since I has no use of 1hand and am losing use of the other that didn't seem like a good option. The others all had screens with lots of pictures to touch. Can anyone who uses a speech communication device tell me if that's helpful? Frankly, to me it seemed like they were designed for children. I asked how I would use them when I couldn't touch the screen and she said there were switches, joysticks. No mention of eyegaze technology, so I don't know if she is aware of it. I read about it on this forum. So now I feel like I need to investigate what I want before I go back or go elsewhere.

Since I've posted I've been doing some research, but have some questions that maybe someone can answer. It sound like the ERICA can be awfully sensitive to light, head motion, and maybe even wearing glasses. Experience with this anyone? I also found a tobii which may be better, but can't find a dedicated speech generating device so insurance will pay for it. Has anyone used or had demonstrated the tobii?

One last question: did your speech clinic insist on having and Occupational Therapist be part of the process? There was one who sat in on my appointment; truly "sat in", did not evaluate nor give information. I thought she was a student/trainee until I got a separate bill for almost $700. When I e-mailed to set up another appointment and said "No OT" they replied that there policy is to have OT involved. If they don't change policy I'm determined to go elsewhere.
Hi Ilgal -

We looked at a DynaVox V Max. It has a speech program called Word Power. It has words arrayed by type of speech, categories , all different ways. Developed by a speech pathologist - quite sophisticated (not at all child like). I understand it has an ALS module.

We plan to activate it with a head mouse. A reflective dot is placed on your forehead and a camera picks up the movements. A mouseclick is activated by how long you dwell on a symbol. You set the dwell time. As you get used to the device you can go faster.

Eventually you can add the EYE GAZE camera apparatus if you need it.

This system will generate speech in several different voices, or you can bank your own. We though one voice (Ingrid) in particular, would have worked fine for us. It did not sound very artificial at all.

We also had an OT there - but she helped a lot - explaining different pointing devices, and learning Pt's needs.

This system has environmental control capacity - can even raise and lower Pat's bed, answer the phone, help you make phone calls, open curtains, turn on TV or radio - anything that comes with a remote control - possibly open doors - very user defineable. That is where the OT came in handy - explaining the environmental control part. This is included in the program. Although insurance will not pay for environmental controls as such - we were told that insurance covers the speech device and therefore it comes in the package. This differentiates it from other devices where the environmental controls are an add on module - thus not covered.

We only have to pay $45 to "unlock" the computer part - thus making it a full computer with email and web capabilities. Insurance/Medicare will not pay for the computer - thus the $45 charge if we want it.

We ordered a wheel chair mount through Medicare - and we will buy a bed mount ourselves (Medicare will only pay for one).

MDA pays $2000 toward a speech device - so helps with what Medicare does not cover.

I don't know the cost because we are in the process of putting it through Medicare - says it will take 10 weeks for delivery, approval, etc. Doesn't look thewy anticipate a funding issue.

If you have any other questions we can answer - please keep asking. It is a huge decision and the info I got on this board and one other helped me a lot.

Look up DynaVox and Word Power in Google. You can get an idea from their websites.

Good luck! Beth

I have had a Dynavox 4 for about 2 years. The latest modle is the Dynavox V. I think you will find that the D-V will do most anything you want it to.
I had no trouble learning to use mine. You can program it do a lot of things. I can answer the phone, make calls, turn on the TV and tune it, work my computer with it, ( requires a special phone and a small infared device for computer),store questions and Sym's for use later at the doctors visit.
It has several levels of sophistication, (screens), so you can advance as you learn. I've yet to master the highest !
Its basicly a computer, and as long as you can still move an eye, or a facial muscle you can use it.
It has several voices to choose from, (male & female).
Hope this helps,
PS Mike,
Before you get an ERICA, I just wanted to tell you about the research I've been doing into the Tobii P10. Look up Tobii ATI on the internet to see about the merger of these 2 companies and go to the tobii website to read the most info about the P10. We called the office in Boston and they put us in touch with the local rep for several states here in the midwest. They don't have loaner units out in speech clinics yet but he is going to meet me when I get an appointment so I can try one out. I asked him what are the advantages of the tobii over ERICA and he said 1) you can move your head without messing up the tracking, 2) you don't have to push a mouse around which gets tiring and 3) Tobii is less affected by lights. I also asked about wearing glasses and he said they program your glasses prescription into the computer, so it's not a problem. He also told me he had just done a demo with a man with ALS who said it's much easier than ERICA. Of course he's trying to sell his product so I'm not jumping just yet. I also want to try ERICA and look at some others, but I am leaning toward eyegaze. Just seems it will be easier in the long run than having to add on something later.
Good luck in finding a system. Let me know what you get.
MyTobii P10


Thanks so much for the lead on the MyTobii P10! I found a video interview with some of their key leaders and while it was VERY programmer techie speak, they did a brief demo. Looks VERY sharp, and they have custom designed a number of applications in house that look very well designed.

I especially like the greater tolerance for head movement...that especially speaks to the issue I experiences with the ERICA system in my demo. I'm very encouraged. I don't know if you also found this (sorry can't find the link now), but on one page I saw it approximated the cost for the MyTobii P10 at $16,000 (same site accurately gave the cost for ERICA at $7000 so it's likely in the ballpark). That's a bit salty, but if it truly performs better may be worth it.

I have contacted Tobii about a possible demo at my home like you are doing as well. Please share your experience, like/dislikes, cost from your demo. And I promise that I'll do the same! :)

Here's What I'm Looking At

I think I'm going to get a Communicator. It's a real (Samsung) computer, only 1.7 pounds, with great-looking software and a voice that sounds perfectly natural, and will work even when you can't use your hands with its scanning features. Moreover, it's priced much lower than equivalent models, and approved by Medicare and MDA.
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I had never heard of the gus devices, so thanks for posting that. I'm pretty torn about what to do. I like the Gus's small size. It would be great now while I'm still pretty mobile, but I wonder it I'd like it later when I'm wheelchair bound. Some people have advised me to buy equipment for the worst possible stage of progression and that would be in a chair and unable to activate a scanner switch or head pointer. But how far down this scary road will that be?
This topic is so timely for me! Thanks! I was told by ALS Clinic last January to start recording my voice. I live in Montana - my speech therapist didn't know how to do it and said she'd research it. So..over two months later and I haven't even started. I am feeling very frustrated and started doing research on my own yesterday. I have an appt with the Dynavox rep March 19th. She told me she didn't know anything about recording I'm still trying to find out. I'd be willing to travel outside of state to get help on this but of course would rather not

My speech is deteriorating rapidly - I notice the change every single day.

I really want to record my voice and feel I still can if I can work in short amounts of time. Can you please share your experiences about recording your voice? Thanks !

Have you found model talker. I really don't know anything about it except that you can record your own voice and it's free beta software. I feel that I am probably past the point of using my own voice but I may go ahead and give it a go.

How is your voice? Are they advising a small portable device or something that needs to rest on a table? Are you still walking? I really don't know which way to go on that. I hope you'll share what you've been told and what you're thinking.

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By the way, I notice 2 of the people posting in this thread are from Montana and I was born in Butte, Montana. Small world!
MyTobii P10

Yesterday a rep brought a MYTobii P10 unit and demoed it so I wanted to let you know what I thought.
It was impressive. The eyegaze was great; accurate and easy to use. Right off I was able to spell out words, move between screens, etc. just using my eyes. My husband was sitting behind and to the side of me and he was amazed at what I was doing. Rep said it has 4 cameras (built in, not "hanging down" below) tracking 2 eyes. I was wearing my progressive bifocals and we were under bright fluorescent lights and neither created a problem. He said they can actually enter vision Rx so glasses are no problem.
The communication software was called Viking and seemed okay (but understand that I haven't worked with others). It had word prediction and phrase prediction and different relevant screens you could go to. You don't "push a mouse" to go from letter to letter. You just rest your eyes there for a few seconds and it registers. Then look at "Speak" and a pretty good sounding voice said the phrase. I listened to 2 female voices and both were okay; definitely better than Dectalk. It also has a touch screen and keyboard.
In addition to the Viking communication software it has its own e-mail,web browser, games, and chat software. You can also load any other software (separate USB CD drive) but it won't have the easy eyescanning; instead you will "push around a mouse."
Downsides, to me, were 1) definitely not a portable machine I could carry around now while I'm still walking (15 lbs., wheelchair, tabletop, and rolling mounts) 2) no built in battery, but can be plugged into wheelchair power source 3) no built in wireless gizmo (have to plug in USB connector for wireless internet) 4)no built in CD/DVD drive.

I'm going to look more at the info this evening and if anything pops out at me as important, I'll post more.

Hope this helps somebody. I know I still feel very confused.
Thank you for this excellent information.
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