Cult Favorite: Auto Verbal Pro Lets Devices Speak For You

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What it is: Auto Verbal Pro (iTunes link) is handy, if not quite full-featured augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) software that gives non-verbal people an inexpensive tool to communicate using an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.

Why it’s cool: Other high-end AAC solutions such as Proloquo2go (iTunes link) cost well upwards of $100 while Auto Verbal Pro hit the iTunes store a couple of weeks ago at 99¢. The introductory price won’t last long but even when NoTie Software kicks its offering up to $30 it will still be a bargain for the help it can bring to people with autism or other conditions that make it difficult for them to communicate verbally.

With over 100 pre-programmed icons in its intuitive interface, Auto Verbal Pro makes it easy for a non-verbal person to say basic phrases such as “I am tired,” or “I am OK,” and things such as numbers, days of the week, shapes, colors, food items, animals and so on. There are 10 icons which can be custom programmed to utter more complex phrases, such as “This software is the bomb, isn’t it?” and a text entry field in which any phrase can be typed and played through the device speakers. Users can choose between large and small buttons, which can be very useful to the visually impaired or fat-fingered, and between male or female sounding computerized voices in low-fi or hi-fi quality.

While great strides have been made in recent years developing software to speak for us, Auto Verbal Pro showcases some of the limitations that persist. The built-in low-fi voicings are certainly intelligible but lack any kind of nuance or expressiveness. Hi-fi voicings are even more intelligible and slightly more expressive, but they require WiFi Internet access in order to work, since the files live on NoTie’s servers. When a custom or typed phrase is called on to use a hi-fi voice, the software connects to NoTie and plays back the sounds using QuickTime, which results in clunky, irritating delays. Where no Internet access is available, the program defaults to the low-fi voicing.

All and all, this is useful and potentially even quite amusing software; with good reason it quickly jumped into the Top 5 Paid Medical apps on the iTunes App Store.

Where to get it: Auto Verbal Pro (currently English-only, but with French, Spanish, and German versions planned) is available on the App Store for a limited time at 99¢, after which its price will jump to $30. It’s well worth investing a dollar now to see if it’s something that could be useful to you or someone you care about.