‘Voice Explorer’ is an iPad game created for Victoria Education Centre in Poole, Dorset by our placement student-turned web and mobile developer Jamie, in conjunction with Bournemouth University. Jamie is going to give a run-down of the project, which aids speech therapy with the help of some brightly coloured characters…
Hi, my name is Jamie and I am a Web & Mobile Developer for Createful. I create Android apps, iOS apps and websites for Createful’s clients. I first joined Createful in July 2013 for a year placement as part of my Computing degree at Bournemouth University. I learnt a great deal on placement with Createful and continued to work part time throughout the rest of my degree. For my final year of university, I was tasked with building a piece of software; this would then be explained in greater detail in my dissertation.
I wanted to make an application to help others; possibly a charity. I approached Createful with the idea of a charitable project and they were very happy to help. We got in touch with Victoria Education Centre and worked with them to build Voice Explorer for iPad. Voice Explorer is a free iPad game that is designed to help children with speech therapy.
Victoria Education Centre
Victoria Education Centre is a residential and day care school in Poole with students aged 3-19 years. Students often have physical disabilities, complex medical conditions, or both. These include communication difficulties, learning difficulties and sensory impairments. Students attend speech and language therapy sessions to improve verbal communication; this helps students produce vocalisations, pronounce words and speak louder and more clearly.
The 3 Problems
1. Stopwatches are used to track time
Speech and language therapists’ time is extremely valuable. In an ideal world, they would not need to spend any time preparing or analysing the sessions. We can save the therapist time by not requiring them to use a stopwatch. This time could then be used for more beneficial outcomes such as more time with each student, or the ability to see more students.
2. The quality of a student’s voice is hard to quantify
There is no doubt that speech and language therapists at Victoria Education Centre are experts in what they do. However, being able to accurately score a student’s voice is particularly hard. Without accurate scores, it makes day-to-day progress hard to distinguish.
3. A parent or therapist is needed for practice
Parents and therapists are the cornerstones of assistance for student progress. If the student could additionally have the option of practicing alone or in other situations, then their development could potentially be sped up. A solution that takes the form of a game could help encourage them to practice more often and encourage further progress.
The proposed solution is a native iPad game that:
- Improves user engagement by making a game out of practice and encourages students to beat their high scores;
- Tracks progress via settings adjustments, gameplay statistics and high scores;
- Allows students to practice anywhere;
- Speeds up development.
Meet the Characters
Speech and language therapists at Victoria Education Centre provided ideas on the design of the characters. Their opinions are very valuable as they have worked with students for many years. They suggested funny/bizarre characters and those that have a good contrast e.g. yellow & black. This influenced the character design, which resulted in the following 3 characters:
- Flying Pig
- Hot Air Balloon
Voice Explorer was used as main training tool for two days at Victoria Education Centre. We received the following feedback from them after testing:
“Students responded really well”
“Progress could be tracked by adjusting the sensitivity”
“Sensitivity settings allow for extremely quiet voices”
“One student was really enthusiastic about her score increasing over the course of the session, and kept saying: ‘look at the score!!'”
“A student had to have speed of 15 initially, but by the end of the session they could keep the character up with a speed of 7”
Voice Explorer is a speech therapy game aimed to improve students speech and save therapists’ time. The students responded really well with increased engagement displayed. I have really enjoyed developing this application and I am very grateful for the help and advice of Createful and Victoria Education Centre. I have since received a 1st class grade (70%+) for this project and it has contributed to me leaving university with a 1st class degree (70%+ average). Improvements will continue to be made to make Voice Explorer even better. If you have any queries or suggestions, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.