Frequently Asked Questions
- Why was PhotoVOCA developed?
- PhotoVOCA was developed as a faster and more functional alternative to mid-tech communication aids, following an approach based on tried and tested paper-based communication approaches. As the project developed we added new features to increase its usefulness alongside other AAC in schools and colleges, particularly where no AAC is available in the home.
- Who uses PhotoVOCA?
- PhotoVOCA has around 4000 users currently (April 2013), mostly on iOS and using iPads. Users we're in contact with so far are split evenly between professionals and parents.
- Is PhotoVOCA just for kids?
- PhotoVOCA was developed for classroom use but is used by adults with autism, developmental disabilities and
other conditions which limit both mental capacity and expressive language.
- Why are the minimum Hardware and OS version requirements?
- PhotoVOCA supports Android tablets and mobile phones running all versions of the Android operating system from 1.6 onwards. On iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, iOS version 4.1 or higher is required. Devices with forward facing cameras are recommended, but not required.
- What makes PhotoVOCA different?
- PhotoVOCA has several unique features including built-in Google Image Search, automatic sizing of Grids, device to device sharing of Grids and built-in Grid editing and management tools. Most importantly it has the simplest possible interface for the communicators themselves, building naturally on well-established practice with manual and low tech communication approaches.
- Will you add 'sentence building'?
- PhotoVOCA was developed for use as a earlier or parallel AAC resource to sentence building communication aids. While it is possible to build quite complex message lexicons with PhotoVOCA it is not best suited as the primary AAC for those developing literacy or who are building phrases with more than a few simple constructions. Used alongside other AAC devices and communication approaches, PhotoVOCA can be both a useful fallback and a means of protecting the primary AAC from clutter.
- Do I need an Internet Connection to use PhotoVOCA?
- To download images via Google searches and to share Grids by email you need to be online, but all other features including Grid editing and creation
work without an Internet connection. PhotoVOCA does not require an on-going subscription.
- Which AAC Symbol System does PhotoVOCA use?
- PhotoVOCA doesn't include any particular symbol system, it was designed to use photographs and generic imagery.
Images can be added to Grids directly from the built-in camera, via the Photo Gallery or iOS PhotoStream. An efficient Internet Image Search tool is included allowing high quality images to be sourced from the billions indexed by Google.
- Can I use symbols with PhotoVOCA?
- We provide freely downloadable libraries and Grids using Sclera and ARASAAC symbol systems, which are published under Creative Commons licenses. With other symbol systems you will need to check the license terms before using them with PhotoVOCA. Sclera and ARASAAC symbols can be freely used at home, in education, health and care settings. Once the libraries have been installed, symbols are usually accessible from all your other Apps as well.
- Which is best Symbols or Photographs?
- Try both - if your focus is communication rather than literacy use whatever is best understood. Using symbols to represent generic and abstract concepts while taking photographs for specific concepts is a sensible and consistent approach at first - eg a doll symbol which really represents 'any doll' might lead to a Grid with photographs of your actual named dolls.
- What sounds can I use?
- Cell audio can be recorded using the microphone and sound effects clips can be imported from iTunes (iOS) or loaded from file and other audio Apps (Android). PhotoVOCA provides a built-in MP3 voice recorder for older Android versions in addition to supporting the Android Sound Recorder of more recent devices.
- Are external switches and scannning supported?
- The Apple iOS version of PhotoVOCA supports most bluetooth switch interfaces. Single switch, automatic scanning and two switch, step scanning are supported. Android version 2.3 (Gingerbread) is required for external bluetooth switch support without additional drivers.
- Is 'Tap Anywhere' scanning supported?
- The Apple iOS version of PhotoVOCA uses single and two finger touches anywhere on the screen to control automatic and step scanning. Control of both scanning modes, with short and long finger taps, is supported on all versions of Android.
- How do I use PhotoVOCA with external switches on older Android devices and phones?
- The bluetooth keyboard drivers needed by switch boxes are available from Google Play - eg BlueInput from Teksoft. You might also consider switching to community Android firmware if your device is no longer being updated by its manufacturer or reseller.
- Can I transfer Grids between different devices and mobile operating systems?
- Grids can be shared directly between any devices running PhotoVOCA - e.g. emailed straight from the classroom iPad to Mum's Android
mobile phone at home and vice versa. On Android devices Grids can be shared via USB Storage, Dropbox and other 3rd Party Apps and services. iTunes can be used on iOS devices to transfer Grids to and from a computer via USB.
- Doesn't using Google to source images pose Copyright problems?
- In some jurisdictions personal use of images for PhotoVOCA may be considered 'Fair Use'. Where available the Copyright information associated with Google search results can be viewed by clicking the 'Info' icon which appears above each preview image. PhotoVOCA also allows the limiting of Google searches to images published under a Creative Commons License explicitly allowing their non-commercial use.
- What happended to the Voiceware version of PhotoVOCA?
- The licensing cost of using TTS in AAC apps is prohibitively expensive on iOS, even with Voiceware who are most competitive currently. It was unlikely we could recover enough money from sales to cover the cost of quartely license fees. The paid-for app is still supported but no longer available for new buyers.
- Will you sell the Voiceware version of PhotoVOCA in future?
- As the project is currently unfunded we can only do this if 500 sales a quarter at a cost of around $40 an App can be maintained. We'll look at the practicality of this again in mid-2013.