A speech generating device for kids with autism.

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Augmentative Assistive Comunication (AAC) Device for preliterate individuals with speech/language delay. Touch an icon on the screen to generate a spoken word.

The challenge: Many kids with autism have difficulty using spoken language to communicate. High tech assistive devices are available but they can be very expensive.

How this project addresses the problem: Making available a low-cost, open source version of the high-tech speech generating devices used in speech therapy for children with autism.

This project might be world changing: When I bought a speech generating device for my son, the sticker price was over $6,000 USD. It was difficult for us to acquire this expensive piece of medical equipment and required the generosity and help of many people to make it possible. Even though we now have the device, we do not take it everywhere because of concern of possible breakage or loss. Imagine a world where every child with language delay had a portable speech generating device that was inexpensive enough to be treated like toy! These devices would also be based on open source designs, so parents and autistic individuals themselves could repair or customize their device!

Use of this device consists of

  1. Touch screen
  2. Swipe to see next icon
  3. Press icon
  4. Hear spoken word

Touchscreen Options

I considered both resistive and capacitive touchscreen options for this project. According to the articles I read about this comparison, design considerations for capacative touch include: power consumption, noise reduction, and gesture recognition. I also had concerns about what libraries were available to use with a capactitive touchscreen.

The advantages of choosing a resistive touchscreen were: lower cost, 10 years of documentation, and that it dictates simplicity of user experience. The disadvantages of a resistive touchscreen were: possible loss of swipe, possibly requiring a stylus, and possibly frustrating for kids.

After much thought I have decided to proceed with a resistive touchscreen for this initial version of the prototype.

Possible implementations

I considered several platforms for this project including: Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Android Tablet, iOS app, web application, and single page application (SPA).

I am still intruiged by the idea of creating an Arduino version of this device someday because this implementation would be the most like a toy.

Also, so many people have suggested this project would be a good app that I am considering pursuing that in the future also.

For this initial version of the prototype I am choosing to move forward with the Raspberry Pi platform. The main reason I am making this decision is because of the option of a web interface and the option of expanded harddrive space for media files.

  • 1 × raspberry pi 2, model B Used according to rapberry pi terms of use.
  • 1 × micro sd card (to install Raspbian Jessie on the pi)
  • 1 × Touchscreen wave share spot pear 3.5" LCD(A)
  • 1 × HDMI cable to view the monitor while installing the touchscreen drivers.
  • 1 × USB to micro USB cable to power the pi until I get a battery pack figured out.

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  • External speakers used inside the enclosure

    Muriel Green06/07/2017 at 15:25 0 comments

    I found these external speakers and I am going to try them on the prototype chiefly because they use USB and no IO pins. These should work for the first generation prototype but will almost certainly be replaced in the second generation build.

  • Speakers

    Muriel Green05/25/2017 at 20:01 0 comments

    Ok, I'm gonna need some speakers. I'm hoping this one will work, it looks like it uses a lot of pins, though, and the screen already uses a lot of pins!

  • Enclosure

    Muriel Green05/25/2017 at 19:54 1 comment

    I have started talks with someone who is going to help me design a custom enclosure for this project. The two main considerations I want to keep in mind are,

    • Heat management. Do we need to add a heat sink, vents, or fan?
    • Child proof the power button. Can we add a sliding panel or recessed cavity to make the power button difficult to access?
    • Speaker placement. Should the case have slots to let sound out? Where should those be placed and does it affect the way the speakers are attached on the inside?

  • Battery Pack and On/Off Switch

    Muriel Green05/25/2017 at 19:50 0 comments

    I have found a battery pack and an on/off switch that I like. I'll probably need to wait until next payday to get them.

  • Camera might be broken on the raspi.

    Muriel Green05/23/2017 at 20:42 0 comments

    While I was installing the touchscreen I felt an ever so slight prick when my finder brushed the camera slot. So, that may have been a zap and the camera may now not work. I need to get some static safe wristband thingies.

  • Touchscreen installed!

    Muriel Green05/23/2017 at 20:39 0 comments

    I settled on using the Wave Share Spot Pear 3.5" resistive touchscreen.

    It does not work out of the box because the default setting on a raspberry pi is to use the HDMI port as the video out.

    The users manual for the touchscreen has instructions, but they skip over the step of how to install the drivers.... which was a difficult step for me. So I found this wiki linked from the manufacturer's page which helped a lot with the step by step instructions on installing the touchscreen drivers.

    Anyway, I now feel incredibly proud that my project is back on track :)

  • Volunteer actor found for voice work

    Muriel Green05/05/2017 at 19:36 0 comments

    One of the possible implementations for this project includes linking a database of pre-recorded phrases to a web interface. I have found an actor who is willing to donate their time free of charge to record the necessary audio files. Here is the list of phrases the actor will record for the project.

    my name is

    i live in

    phone number


    i am __ years old

    my school

    i like to
























































  • Hiring an illustrator

    Muriel Green05/05/2017 at 19:29 0 comments

    In order to create an attractive set of icons for the touchscreen interface I am looking to hire an illustrator. I posted to fiverr and have found someone whose style will be good for a product that is intended for children. I need to come up with $265 to hire this illustrator, so I am working on coming up with that capital. Here is the request that I posted to fiverr...

    "Set of 53 icons with white backgrounds. Name tag, house, phone, birthday cake, finger pointing at you, fireworks, wizard, train, bridge, one jar, stack of jars, dog, green light, drink, apple, treasure chest, bed, knot, girl, boy, group of friends, sheep, rainbow, mountain, bathtub, bucket of water, bucket of water spilling, spilled bucket of water, a dog and cat, sports equipment, child playing with toy car, one hand giving another a present, person pointing to themselves, theater masks, book, stop sign, money, hammer pounding a nail, sunshine, dice, hand holding a cell phone, person reaching for a TV set, umbrella, scissors, two hands making the sign for "more", school building, tablet computer, "this belongs to" tag, two friends side by side with their arms around each other, question mark, bucket of water labeled "to", person carrying a bucket and paint brush, two arrows going around in a circle."

  • Tontec or Spot Pear for resistive touch screen?

    Muriel Green05/05/2017 at 19:21 0 comments

    This weekend I hope to make a decision on which touch screen to use.

    Tontec model#MZ61581

    WaveShare Spot Pear

  • Choosing a screen and a AA battery pack.

    Muriel Green03/31/2017 at 20:03 0 comments

    Currently comparing the two touch screens I have to see which will work best for the project. The two screens are:

    • Tontec 3.5" screen model #MZ61581 which requires an install of Raspbian Wheezey or Jesse so I would need to change from my current Debian install.
    • Waveshare Spot Pear 3.5" RPi LCD (A) V3

    Both screens are resistive touch because that is what I had on hand.

    I am also considering ways to implement the battery pack. There is a nifty device called BattBorg, but it uses IO pins and that might interfere with the screen install. I will get the screen in place first then move on to battery pack choices.

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hollyartmusic wrote 06/05/2017 at 23:18 point

looking forward to watching this progress! 

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David H Haffner Sr wrote 05/01/2017 at 10:30 point

This is quite a noble project, if I can help just let me know :)

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Muriel Green wrote 05/01/2017 at 13:34 point

Thank you, David! I will be sure to message you if I hit any snags and need advice :)

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Ulysse wrote 04/25/2017 at 20:15 point

hi Muriel, thank you  !

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Muriel Green wrote 05/01/2017 at 13:34 point

Hi Ulysse! I'm excited to see how our projects develop over the next few months :)

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Muriel Green wrote 03/21/2017 at 19:09 point

Thanks Haydn! This is along the lines of what I was thinking for my first generation version of the device! Eventually I want to make a version that runs MaryTTS, but maybe not for this contest.

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haydn jones wrote 03/21/2017 at 16:30 point

An easy setup could be to use the pi with the official touchscreen and load straight into a web browser, and make the interface in html so it is a web site stored on the pi. You could even go on to and pay someone $5 to read a list of words for you :)

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