A Photo to Speech App is Worth a Thousand Words


Let me tell you a funny story.

I once had a client who was using a photo-based app (APP2Speak) to communicate, and his wife helped him to create custom photo pages in the app.

He had her take a picture of beer in a mug and when he selected it, the app would say, “Beer me.” They set this up in the app because he would meet up with his buddies once a month at the bar, and he would use the “beer me” photo to order.

picture-to-speech appThis same client also demonstrated his sense of humor by having his wife take a picture of his mustache, and then used the speech output to say, “Honey, can you clean the boogers out of my ‘stache?”

He also used another custom photo of his beard to say, “Honey, I need a trim. Can you help?”

These are just a few examples of the power (and sometimes humor) of using photo to speech technology.

Apps for people who have trouble talking are just one form of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), and photo to speech translations are just one method of communication allowed by these apps, but it’s arguably the most effective method available for people who can’t talk.

After all, you know how the old saying goes: “A photo is worth a thousand words.”

What are Picture-Based Communication Systems?

Most symbol-based communication systems involve a process that combines the use of cartoon characters, symbols, icons, and/or words. The user selects a specific picture, symbol, icon, or word to express one part of what they’re trying to say, then repeats the process to generate the next part of the thought, eventually generating a complete sentence. This process makes expressing an idea laborious and extremely time-consuming.

Photos, on the other hand, promote context-based communication by using real-life images to communicate practical wants, needs, and even conversation, making it much easier to express yourself.

The obvious major advantage of a photo-based communication system is that it allows people with little or no verbal communication ability to communicate using pictures. But there are other benefits of using these systems, as well. For example:

• Photos are easy to understand on their own, conveying even complex concepts with a single photo—and this is even without the speech translation that adds nuance and context to the communication. This combination of pictures and spoken words makes communication efficient and successful across most environments.
• Having a way to communicate readily available means that the person using the system is more likely to initiate communication with others, reducing feelings of isolation and frustration.
• They provide the flexibility of working in any setting—home, school, work—anywhere the person has access to the system.

Who Are the Best Candidates for Using a Photo-Based App?

While even young children can benefit from the use of a basic photo-based communication system, the people who are the best candidates for using this technology are adults who already have language and thus have the ability to abstract meaning from photos—they simply don’t have the speech to communicate their ideas without help.

Setting Up a Picture to Speech App Initially

The best way to set up a photo to speech app is for the user to collaborate with family, friends, co-workers, and others involved in their everyday life. The user should, of course, be in the “driver’s seat,” selecting the photos he or she wants to use to communicate.

The user should also make the final decisions on how the photos are arranged on the app, since he or she will be the one using the app to communicate.

There are some situations where the user may not be able to make all the decisions regarding his or her use of the app, so the caregiver who knows him or her best should help make these decisions when necessary.

Enhancing the Usefulness of a Picture to Speech App Over Time

Any good photo to speech app will come with a supply of pre-selected images. These are a good starting point, but to personalize the app and really make it his or her own, the user should have the opportunity as early as possible to add photos that have personal meaning and reflect their personality and style of communicating.

Beyond this initial period of adding personally selected photos to the app, it’s important that the user be able to continue to develop his or her photo library over time as they have new experiences and create new memories.

To that end, those close to the user should get into the habit of taking photos of special events and family members (nieces, nephews, grandchildren, etc.), labeling them, and showing them to the user to see if he or she would like to incorporate them into the app’s photo library. Once the user has made a selection, those close to them can help them create custom phrases and sentences talking about the people and events so the user can tell the story to others.

This is the kind of personalization I demonstrated at the beginning of this post when I shared the story of my client using his app to say, “Beer me.” The more customized the app becomes to the user, the more the system can demonstrate his or her unique personality.

APP2Speak: A Robust, Flexible Picture to Speech App

While there are many photo to speech apps on the market today, APP2Speak® is, in my (somewhat biased) opinion, one of the best photo-based augmentative and alternative speech and communication (AAC) apps available.

It comes with 80 preset communication wants and needs. Each preset communication page displays 20 real-life photos with voice output for a word and/or a phrase describing the want or need. The pages can be easily swiped up and down or left and right to switch between pages. Or the user can use the “go to page” feature to easily change from page to page.

In addition, the preset communication page photos can be moved and turned on or off.

The custom pages features are unlimited. The user can quickly and easily create custom phrases to go along with his or her own photos, and creating custom phrases gives each user the opportunity to inject their personality into every conversation.

It’s as easy as simply uploading pictures from your personal photo library or the Internet. Another option is to take pictures within the app itself.

Check out our “How it Works” page to learn more.