LINGUIST List 3.532

Fri 26 Jun 1992

Sum: Speech Prostheses

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  1. "Bruce E. Nevin", Sum: speech prostheses for stroke

Message 1: Sum: speech prostheses for stroke

Date: Fri, 26 Jun 92 09:40:17 EDSum: speech prostheses for stroke
From: "Bruce E. Nevin" <>
Subject: Sum: speech prostheses for stroke

This is a summary of responses that I received to my request for
information about speech prostheses for stroke survivors. Some of the
responses were sent to a colleague who had earlier asked locally on
behalf of a person with Lou Gehrig's disease who can only move her eyes.

Thanks to those who responded directly to me. In order of receipt, they
are: Wendy Goble, Nichael Cramer, Larry Sher, John Kingston, Mark
Seiden, Hugo QuenE, Sherri Condon, Rickard Parker, Kim Silverman, Tim
Bunnell, Gary Strong, Michel Jackson, Paul Chapin, Hoskuldur Thrainsson,
Bill Huggins, Stephen Ryberg, Brian Kalita, Ronnie Wilbur, and Briony
Williams. This does not include those in the summary passed on to me.

	 Bruce Nevin


Summary of Responses: Speech Prostheses for Stroke Survivors

There are four sections, with some overlap:

 1. Companies & products
 2. Contact people
 3. Literature references
 4. Suggestions for information search

1. Companies & products

I don't know if this is the information you wanted but the software that
did the synthesis for Hawking was developed by a firm called Speech-Plus
in Mountain View, CA. I don't know what hardware it ran on, but I do know
that Speech-Plus is (was?) in the business of developing general purpose
i.e. rule-based speech synthesis systems.
Commercial software
for English is available from Speech Plus ("Prose-2000", used by S Hawkins),
Sensimetrics/MIT, and Infovox (Sweden).
One popular manufacturer of such devices is -

Prentke Romich Co.
1022 Heyl Rd.
Wooster, OH 44691
(800) 642-8255

another maker of synthesis devices -

ACS Inc.
Box 12440
Pittsburg, PA 15231
(800) 247-3433

The latter group uses a dyphone synthesizer partly designed in one of the
labs here.
1. System 2000 from Words +, Inc.
 Cost is $2600 to $7000, depending on model.
 This is the only one that runs on a standard IBM compatible
 Their software design is called "Talking Pictures".
 You can build your own picture library.
 The interface is a virutal keyboard in the top of the line model.
 They have free demo disks. (1-800-869-8521)

2. DynaVox from Sentient Systems Technology, Inc.
 Basic price seems to be around $4500.
 Also uses virtual keyboard.
 Not as flexible in customization of own software and icons.
 They are coming out (if not already out) with small, portable,
 waist-pack system that sounds pretty neat for people who are
 unable to haul around a lap-top.

3. Touch-Talker (newer model: Liberator) from Prentke-Romich.
 This is the one my daughter uses.
 Not a virtual keyboard, you must change overlays on keyboard to
 change icons or their positions.

I have a fair amount of experience with Dectalk, and making
it sound more intelligible. Dave Pisoni at UIndiana ran some
intelligibility tests some years back that showed it was the
most intelligible, but it is also not cheap: $5k at last asking
(but there may be special pricing for those with special needs..).

If you want to hear what it sounds like, dial 3693 and try out
BBN's automated phone call routing system.

I was a colleague of Dennis Klatt's at MIT for 10 years, who did
the research and designed it: I heard him "give" a talk entirely
with Dectalk at ASA one year. He died of laryngeal cancer a few
years ago...
Did I mention that Dec was working on a board-level product
some time back? That was supposed to be cheaper, about $1500
as I remember. But I don't know if it ever surfaced.
I don't know if this is exactly what you're looking for, or if it's
anything like Hawking uses (I don't believe it is), but Kurzweil, a Cambridge
MA company, does a lot of work with voice synthesizers and computer
text/voice interaction. To give you an idea, a blind woman at the Boston
braille publishing house where I used to work used such a device to listen
to information stored in a standard spreadsheet database program on a PC.
I don't know what particular difficulties were involved, or how the
program/equipment was designed with respect to phonology, but she got the
job done.
Xerox's imaging research operation here in Cambridge does a lot of
work in text readers for the handicapped. They absorbed a company
called Kurzweil that specialized in that stuff. They won't have
the kind of thing you are looking for, but you might try giving
them a call. Certainly they have someone somewhere in their
organization who knows that market and might know who manufactures
the thing you are looking for. They are Xerox Imaging Systems (XIS)
near Technology Square. I don't have a phone number, but you
can look them up.

2. Contact people

you might talk to mike omalley or elizabeth peters at berkeley speech
technologies. they've actually in emeryville, ca. sorry i don't have
a phone number or email address handy. but try 510 555 xxxx

they have done, among other things, the text to speech for the franklin
speaking dictionary and lots of other embedded products and know all the
I don't have specific info about speech synthesis, but a computer science
colleague recently gave me an article by Norman Alm, John L. Arnott, and
Alan F. Newell (not the Alan Newell you are probably familiar with) who all
work at the Microcomputer Centre, Department of Mathematics and Computer
Science at the University of Dundee in Scotland. All have primary research
interests in development of communication systems for the disabled and they
appear to be doing some interesting work. You might like to check with
them about available systems. I imagine you don't need to contact all 3,
so here is the e-mail address for Normal Alm: (JANET).
I read your query to LINGUIST. John Eulenberg, Dept. of Linguistics,
Michigan State U., is a, perhaps the, leading expert on electronic
speech prostheses. I have no reason to suppose he reads LINGUIST, so
you'll probably need to contact him directly.
I just read your note. I have been involved in the adaptation of
a Swedish system to Icelandic. This is a language-independent
system there exist several versions of it already (British English,
American English, Swedish, German, Norwegian, Icelandic...). It uses
a PC and can be used as a text-to-speech system (reading text)
or as a speech device ("saying" whatever is typed on the keyboard)./
It has some intonation rules etc. and it is phoneme-based rather
than syllable based. It has a lexicon for the more "exceptional"
words, digit rules (to read numbers written/typed in in digits
rather than spelled), etc. - I don't know who distributes this here in
the US. The hardware (a card and a voice-box) is produced and sold
by the Swedish company Infovox (and the software too). The system
was developed at the Royal Technical College in Stockholm, mainly
by Bjoern Granstroem and Rolf Carlson. I suggest you get in touch
with them for more info. ("" and "").
the absolute best resource for getting the RIGHT equipment is Howard Shane
at Children's Hospital right there in Boston. Howard runs the Communication
Enhancement Center which does evals and equipment set-up (although primarily
for children - you can still count on Howard to give you the straight dope).
i have worked with him for over 15 years (on joint research projects) and know
him to be honest, innovative, and at the cutting edge. his Center has contract
s with Digital for imporved speech synthesis in their "talkers" and they have
their own engineer on staff to modify equipment as needed. if he doesn't
have what you want, he'll tell you who to contact. good luck.
About your query on the LINGUIST list regarding speech synthesisers for the
disabled: have you tried contacting Prof. Alan Newell at the Microcomputer
Centre at the University of Dundee, Scotland? His people work in just this
area, and some of them are currently looking at getting a synthesiser to
express emotion in its speech, for use by a disabled person. His e-mail
address is, while his snail mail address is: Prof. Alan
Newell, Microcomputer Centre, Dept. of Mathematics and Computer Science,
Park Wynd <sic>, Dundee DD1 4HN, Scotland, UK.
Howard Shane, the head of hanicapped assistance research at Children's
Hospital in Boston, may be able to provide you with a pointer to devices.

. . . Digital
appl[ied] text-to-speech devices such as DECTALK to the area of
handicapped assistance. A few years ago . . . worked closely with Howard
Shane's group on the development of a special portable version of
you could give the Artificial Language Laboratory at
Michigan State University a call (517-355-1855). If the operator there
doesn't have a listing for them, they might be listed under the Computer
Science Dept. The head of the lab is John Eulenberg. I used to work
there a few years ago; they design and develop computer applications for
handicapped individuals and one of their main "products" and interests
was the systems that are operated by eye movement. They're quite well
known and will be able to point you in the right direction if they
themselves don't have the system you're looking for.
Dan (my main guy) worked at a place called the Denver Research Institute (DRI)
which is affiliated with the University of Denver where he was an engineering
student. One of the projects going through the institute the time was an
ocular transducer which at that time was capable of moving chess pieces on a
special chessboard and turning pages of a book with another special device,
etc. One of the chief scientists there was Dr. Donald Rugg (who by the way is
a quadrapalegic himself). Dan is not sure of the program manager's name but
thought that you might be able to get some info. from DRI or perhaps through
the hospital which funded the program - Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in

3. Literature references

Dennis Klatt wrote a review article on speech synthesis, titled
"Review of text-to-speech conversion for English", in the Journal of
the Acoustical Society of America, 82, p.737-793.
There was an excellent article on Hawking and his computer aids in the
very first issue of PC Computing.

4. Suggestions for information search

You might inquire on I also think
there's a forum for medical engineering, but its name or nature I know not.
[Many suggestions to contact libraries and use their search facilties.]

Ask the librarian for help--they're happy to help. You should
get useful answers from the search within 5 min. I'd try looking for
the keywords "handicap" or "blind" or "poor vision" etc.


End of Summary of Responses: Speech Prostheses for Stroke Survivors
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