InnerVoice is an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) app that animates photos of users speaking words and phrases to teach language and skills -- especially among children with autism.
The technology, co-developed by iTherapy, LLC and MotionPortrait, is designed to provide a more person approach to communication.
Most AAC apps are picture-based: a child taps an image button; the device says the word aloud using text-to-speech.
InnerVoice, however, uses animated avatars generated from photographs. Research suggests that seeing videos in which they successfully speak or perform a target skill dramatically helps autistic children with learning and engagement.
How InnerVision Works
Approximately 40 % of autistic children are nonverbal, while between 75 % and 85 % are echolalic, i.e. use repetitive speech. Both conditions reduce one’s ability to learn, socialize, and indicate they’ve understood what they’ve heard.
Mobile devices -- especially the iPad -- and ACC apps help increase communication. Yet most apps, including TalkRocket Go and SoundingBoard are picture-based: the device speaks words or phrases based what a user taps or types.
Such apps, according to iTherapy, don’t trigger parts of the brain, especially mirror neurons and the Fusiform gyrus, that have shown to be deficient in persons with autism.
Mirror neurons are associated with mimicking, copying behavior that builds language, social, and play skills, while the Fusiform gyrus in the left temporal lobe is crucial for recognizing and interpreting facial expressions.
The idea behind InnerVoice is that seeing oneself engaging in correct behavior, whether speaking words or responding appropriately, creates a more exciting interaction for the child that encourages learning.
The app mirrors actions, provides self- and peer modeling in different environments, and helps autistic children see communicating as something fun and enjoyable.
InnerVoice Sparks Creative Uses
An iTherapy, LLC YouTube video demonstrates some creative ways children with autism use the InnerVoice app.
One child, for example, animated a picture of his teddy bear to say, “It’s been a long day. Can I have a hug?” Another kid’s puppy is programed to ask, “Can you take me for a walk?”
The app thus supports the pursuit of speech, language, and social goals.