Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Are you talkin' to me?

The reason I've not posted the last few days is that the post I started on has turned into something far bigger than that.  Those who've been reading a while now will most likely have discovered that I tend to write more or less off the top of my head, starting with a vague idea, and carrying on with little or no editing until I find the end.  Well, so it started, but we'll now just have to wait and see.  More on this later - perhaps I'll post a teaser.

But yesterday, someone who'd read here of my speech issues pointed me in the direction of this, the Proloquo2Go.  This sort of thing hadn't really occurred to me at all, as yet.  I mean, I was vaguely aware of communication devices such as the bulky wheelchair-mounted thingies people like Stephen Hawking uses, but here's something else again.  I've been trying to work out good ways of managing pen and paper for the future, seeing as how my hands are declining in usefulness along with my speaking bits, and you'll remember from primary school that writing is actually a very fine and difficult skill.  It's got me thinking.

It runs on an iPhone or iPod touch, neither of which I've had a use for to date.  I use a phone for phone stuff and the odd capture-the-moment photo.  And of course in the future speaking on the phone will just, well, stop, so it'll be a txt msg device with a crap camera, phone book and alarm clock attached.  I don't tweet or need my email on-the-go so the iPhone's out. 

I had a Sony Walkman once, back when they were quite new, in 1985 if my memory serves correctly.  Yes, I recall listening to Madonna's version of 'Love Don't Live Here Anymore' on a train in Japan, so 1985.  Good version there, thanks Madge.

But since then I've never really had a desire for personal portable music devices.  I generally don't like the way they remove you from the moment, the way they tend to retract so much of your awareness from the present world.  I guess that's why they're so popular - it's one way of having an illusion of control over your life - determine the soundtrack.  I don't even use car stereos much or at all.  Well I did when I had a 45 minute commute twice daily, but in my mind that's what they were really designed for.  Rote-method, relaxed and brainless driving.  I do prefer to be present when piloting hurtling metal, myself.

But now, I can see a great usefulness for a brand-spankers iPod touch.  Plus it's way less than half the price of an iPhone.  I realise I'd then be carrying, charging, managing two devices, but, well, um, anyway, I'll work it out.  An iPhone is also a music player too, yes?  In case I wanted to do that?  Gee, how confusing is consumerism when you let go into the Gruen moment?

Plus, think of all the fun I could have!  At present, there are only two voice suites, an 'Eastern North American' and  'British', which each have adult male and female, and child's voices too.  It would be a hoot to go to the hardware store in the full outdoor-work regalia and ask a question about some big-arse power tool as a small English girl. 

"Excuse me sir, would you have a two-thousand watt roto-rooter professional series available for hire?  We seem to have rooted drains."

And of course the pretend 'oops!' moments.

Cop:  "Good evening sir, just a random breath test and licence check, have you had anything alcoholic to drink this evening?"

iVoice me (British woman): "That cheese smells a bit funny." 
"Sorry wrong button." (shrug shoulders, grin,)

And on we go.  I would plan of having a short series of new absurdisms each day programmed in for "opps wrong button" moments.  Also perhaps accidental insults for those occasions where you really, really, want someone to have a look at themselves and just can't suppress your judgement.

"Sir, you are a juvenile-minded misanthrope"
"Sorry, wrong button" (waves free hand exasperatedly, apology face in place.)
"Thank you for your help, I shall look elsewhere."

Because with such a device, you can be sort of one person removed from what is said, if you don't push it too far.  And yet, in another way, it is so much more intimate, like when someone is listening to a 'neck breather' (I understand that's their own pet word for tracheostomy folks with no vocal chord ability) using a throat-mike thing.

I believe new voices are in development.  I suppose if the app really takes off then there will be fun voices to choose from, like with sat-nav these days.  I am naturally drawn to John Cleese or Jason Alexander as George Costanza for entertainment value, but it would get tiresome.  I wonder if you can sample movie lines in the original voices?

So talk to me people, let me hear your absurdisms, your one-liners of complete inappropriateness, and when I get this whole device thing up and running, I'll report back on how they play....



  1. What a cool instrument! Can you record different musical 'slices' on it, and use those as a kind of ringtone shorthand to indicate your mood? A wordless response, a different form of communication.

  2. I've no real idea of the capabilities yet, but I really like this idea. Like when someone in a group is really banging on and boring everyone to tears, just softly playing the muzak version of 'Girl From Ipanema".

  3. Hahaha! You crack me up! Thanks for the laugh! I love it! I'm so glad you're checking into this. You will love it! Especially with the ways you've listed. It's so good to have a sense of humor! And I appreciate you sharing.

    My son uses his itouch with this application, but also for game apps and pictures, as well as watching videos. He is 8 years old though. You could have a blast with the apps out there though! There's an app for everything! Just off the top of my head, there is the "atomic fart" app. My boys like playing with that one. :)

    If you don't mind, I'm going to send the link for your blog to the developers of proloquo2go. I know they will enjoy reading your ideas on how to use the device. They are always looking for ways to make it better for more users. And if it becomes difficult to point to the smaller buttons and keyboard, you could always consider the new ipad coming out in May I believe. That will have a much bigger screen and should make this app easier for many more people.

    As always, thanks for the smile today Eric. :)

  4. Of course you can send them a link! As William Gibson said, "information wants to be free."

  5. We use proloquo2go too! well my teen son does, but it's to help me as much as him, as I understand his words less and less all the time, and I really hate that! he really hates me asking him to repeat again and again too. He has a fancy $7000 + speech device, but the ipod is so much cooler, and set up better too.

    Don't have any one liners yet, but sometimes the 'voices' can accent things in a way that you didn't intend and that's kind of interesting...

    PLUS- i have a favorite game- Wordplay Online, that you can get for the ipod touch, and I borrow the ipod at night and play with people from all over the world to destress! I love the ipod touch!!