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Wednesday, April 6th, 2011 by Patrick

Creative Technology: MyVoice Communication App

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As part of my exploration of what it means to be a Creative Technologist I’ll be looking at examples that I consider great products of Creative Technology.

I came across a new mobile app, MyVoice, today (via Siobhan O’Flynn). The app is designed to help people with health problems that impede verbal communication to ‘speak’ more easily.

One group this is aimed at is stroke victims who have reduced command of speech. A use that particularly struck me as my Great Aunt Peg, one of the kindest and sharpest people I’ve known, suffered a stroke which hit her speech hard. She was still as sharp and funny as ever after her stroke but for her to speak her thoughts was a huge struggle.

At the heart MyVoice provides ‘books’ of words and phrases that the user can navigate and select and have read aloud by their mobile device. There are several features that might seem common sense to anyone familiar with the world of the web (auto back up, remote customisation and syncing…) but apparently the world of assistive devices lags far behind. The feature that really struck me though was the app’s clever use of location awareness.

As with many great uses of technology the location awareness in MyVoice seems obvious and essential once you think about it – but the point is that someone had to invent it first. Simply, the user can attach ‘books’ of phrases to particular physical locations. The app then automatically puts those books at your finger tips when it detects you are in the specified location. So when you’re at the barber’s “just a little more off the top” is an easy tap away while at the bank you get the more useful “I’d like to deposit this cheque please”.

I don’t know if the creators of this app think of themselves as Creative Technologists, likely they don’t. But I think this is a great example of what the Creative Technologist’s approach can achieve at its best – taking seemingly disparate advances in technology (mobile, GPS, UI design, speech synthesis…) and putting them together in really valuable ways.

I also think we’re overdue for the potential of technology to be spread a little more evenly with more focus on real problems and less on the whims of 20- and 30-somethings. So cheers to the MyVoice team for putting their minds to a tough problem with very real potential benefits.