2002 Conference Proceedings

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WORKING WITH VOCAB PLUS

Tony Jones & Stuart Concannon
Liberator Ltd., Whitegates, Swinstead, Lincs., NG33 4PA UK

There are just four simple rules to learn to begin using VocabPlus. This means that anyone who can read words can begin using the system effectively in about 15 minutes. As you become more accustomed to the layout of the program access speeds increase dramatically. This can be monitored through the language monitor.

Rule One is to select the word you require from those upon the screen. You can see the 32 most popular words in the spoken language of your choice (currently UK English, US English and Danish) on the main page. These 32 words account for approximately 30% of everything that we say. Therefore up to 30% of the words you need can be accessed with a single activation. Note that on the main screen the words are colour coded. The top ten words are in red and all the others are on an alternate dark and light yellow background to make it easier to visually scan the rows.

Rule Two states: if the word you want is not there begin spelling. The grey keys on the main page are the alphakeys. If the word you want is dinosaur activate the D button and you'll be moved to the D page. This page contains the most popular 62 words in the language of your choice beginning with D but does not include any d-words already predicted on the main page. The few hundred words on the pages, together with the top 32 on the main screen bring the total up to 85% of the words we most commonly use. If the word is on the abc page make the selection & you'll be returned to the main page. On abc pages, the dark and light yellow background is continued and any word in the top 100 is highlighted in red. Thus with, one or two activations, you can generate 85% of what you are likely to want to say. This makes VocabPlus very efficient and very powerful.

Rule Three states: keep choosing the next letter... If the word you require is not on the abc page select the button marked spell. This moves VocabPlus to a spelling page where 32 more words beginning with that letter are displayed along with an alpha-keyboard. If you can see the required word, select it. If not, keep spelling the word a letter at a time. Eventually one of two things will happen: either you will see the word you require or you will have spelt the entire word. If the latter is the case return to the main page for your next word or, if the former...

Rule Four which states: when the word you want appears - choose it! The language monitor shows that generally words are produced with between 2 and three activations. As the average English word is six letters long including the space this represents a 50 - 66% saving over conventional typing and ranks among the best results in the world. When one takes into account that it only takes minutes to begin to master the system then it demonstrates the system's power.

The Language Monitor records the date and time of every activation. When viewed it is possible to see what words have been accessed as a whole, what words have been spelt, the frequency of word use, and the speed of access. For privacy, the language monitor can be turned off. In this event, the monitor will report the number of words used and the number of activations but not the words. The monitor is a great tool for checking progress and beginning to customise your system for greater efficiency.

Phrases Pages provide a means of storing your particular vocabulary units for speedier access. A vocabulary unit is defined as a part of a word, a word, a phrase, a sentence, a piece of text, or a speech. Indeed, a vocabulary unit can also be a media file such that you can listen to your favourite music or watch a video, while working. Let's suppose you are studying dinosaurs and want to say triceratops, a word not predicted by the system. Each time you want to use it you will have to spell it in full unless you add it to a phrases page. You may want to set up a theme page containing the dinosaur and dinosaur related vocabulary. Vocabulary from phrase pages can be retrieved with two or three activations (main phrases two activations, all other phrases pages - three). To set up a phrases page is very easy. Any text on the text screen can be saved into a button by selecting Add Phrase on the phrases page of your choice.

Interjections and Fast Phrase buttons are the small red and grey buttons contained within some of the alphakeys on the main page. The idea is to provide speedy access to phrases without moving from the main page. Each of the alphakeys can hold one fast phrase and one interjection button. An interjection button speaks but does not write to the text screen. If you are composing a speech and someone asks you a question you can reply without spoiling your on-screen text. You may even want to swear without the word being written to the screen! A fast phrase button is both spoken and written to the text screen. These buttons are for entire phrases that you may use very regularly: "Good morning, how are you?" for example. All interjection and fast phrases buttons are customisable by the user. If left blank they do not appear on the screen. People who use switches may scan these buttons if they wish.

Document Options: All text written to the screen may be saved for future use and loaded at any time and printed. Text may also be cut, copied and pasted to and from another Windows document or within VocabPlus itself. Text may also be formatted in a variety of ways: Font, font colour, and font size, underline, bold, and italic. Scanning users have access to these features from the functions page.

The Toolbox and Function Pages provide control access over the system. As indicated previously, the functions page mainly allows people who use switches to have control when they cannot access the menu and toolbar functions. There are three main ways of accessing VocabPlus: direct access via a mouse, mouse emulator or a touch screen: if a keyboard is attached, typing at the keyboard can also be used to access the predicted vocabulary as well as typing directly to the text screen: there's also a range of options for people using switches. Apart from the standard scanning options two new scanning methods have been incorporated. VocabPlus comes with DecTalk and Microsoft speech (Infovox in Danish). This is entirely customisable from within the program although the demonstration program only contains Microsoft Speech.

Customising VocabPlus: All aspects of VocabPlus may be customised. The fonts on the keys, the colour of the keys, the movement between pages, whether the key is active (shown) or inactive (invisible). If you don't like a feature, change it or turn it off! So you want the top 100 words to be highlighted in pink with purple italic comic sans font? Easy! Simply right mouse click on any button and change its look and function. Copy this look and function to other buttons if desired or change an entire style throughout the program.

Internet and E-mail: We believe VocabPlus is the first Voice Output communication aid to be able to browse the web and send and receive e-mails. Access the appropriate page from the functions page and the rest is nearly all automated for you after set-up. Compose your e-mail using VocabPlus and then hit an address button on the e-mail page and it is sent. Select Read E-mails and the page buttons are filled with your first sixteen unread e-mails. Selecting any button will write the e-mail to text screen and it then can be spoken using the say all button! Once an e-mail has been read it is no longer written into one of the buttons on the e-mail page making for further or newer unread messages. Using the web page allows users to surf the web. Web addresses can be stored in buttons to give speedy access to your favourite sites. People using switches will be able to surf to their favourite sites although, currently, there is no method to allow the selection of a button actually on the web page without moving the mouse cursor. We are working on it!


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