MEET THE DEVELOPER
Giving voice to the voiceless
How Predictable is giving the power of communication to those who need it.
Text based AAC app
We all communicate in different ways, and speech and language is something that’s easy to take for granted.
Since launching back in 2011, text-to-speech app Predictable has helped those without the ability to speak to vocalise their thoughts to the people around them. Letting users type out messages that their iPhone or iPad then dictates, it has had a profound impact on many lives.
“The things that we all take for granted – being able to say I’m hungry, I’m thirsty – the very basics of communication have been made possible,” Predictable co-founder Rebecca Bright MBE explains.
While this has given new freedoms to the app’s users, in recent years Predictable has taken things a significant step further, letting some who have lost the ability to talk to speak in their own voice again.
“We continued to hear how much voice is part of your identity,” fellow co-founder Swapnil Gadgil tells us. “Users with degenerative conditions wanted to preserve their voice so that they could continue to use it when they had physically lost the ability to speak.”
“They might lose their voice, but a text-to-speech app would help them sound just like they used to.”
Having partnered with a number of research institutes and specialist firms, Predictable now supports the banked voices of those who can no longer speak for themselves – a feature that is giving new freedoms to its users.
Someone who knows the power of this technology better than most is Penny Waters.
Diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) back in November 2017, Waters quickly banked her voice with specialist firm ModelTalker, on the recommendation of her speech and language therapist. Since then she has used Predictable to speak in her own voice as a primary means of communication.
“The MND Association had just started a project encouraging people to bank their voices before they lost the ability to talk completely. I loved the idea,” Waters explains. “I set about recording 1600 sentences – not an easy task, when you need complete silence around you.”
“Strangely, I quite enjoyed the experience. The disease takes control away from you – there is no cure, and minimal medication to take. It was one thing I could do to help with my future. It felt quite empowering.”
As her condition has progressed, Waters, who also writes messages to people using her iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, has seen the benefits of using Predictable grow. And not just for her, but for her friends and family too.
“I played about with it initially, but didn’t use it for a while as I still had a bit of my voice. But since before Christmas 2018, I am quite literally speechless. I use the app every day now.”
“I experimented using stored voices in the app, and I think they are better at interpreting and pronouncing words, but I thought I would prefer to hear my voice whenever possible. Generally it’s great. It is certainly better than pointing at things and hoping my husband will get the message. And friends and family love hearing my voice again.”
Waters isn’t alone in benefiting from the freedom provided by Predictable, either. According to Bright, it’s already being adopted by a far broader range of users than she ever expected.
“We didn’t understand how much of a difference it was going to make, and how widely used it would be by people with motor neurone disease, cerebral palsy, people after strokes, people who had a laryngectomy after head or neck cancer, kids with autism,” she explains. “It’s really amazing.”