The development of the new communicator relies on the expectations of the user needs, and the prioritization of these needs according to the time framework of the project. Finally the approach chosen have been the development of a communicator able to be operated by a wide range of input devices and a modular output that can be tailored to the specific needs of every single user.

The communicator itself it is based on an open architecture that allows specifying the characteristics of a communication board (made for Android) with new characteristics as emotion and health management.

ABC Communicator and integration of components

The communicator is an Android App available from the Google Play store ant it is the core of the integration of the different components (Figure 3).

 Figura 3

Figure 3. Screen of the android app communicator. ABC. A communication board can be seen in the screen as well as the common output bar on top of the icons where the sentences are build. On the right side of the output bar there is the space for feedback on emotions and health status.

The communicator is fully programmable by the users through a configuration interface. The user, or the carer, can determine the number of row and columns and the content in each cell.

There are a number of predefined functions to provide basic functionality such as “move to panel”, “go home”, “speak the selection” and “clear the communication area”. Besides, it is possible to reserve a cell or a range of cells to be permanent across all the boards. This way a tool bar can be defined for the most common functions.

The cells expressing ideas can be configured according to user preferences, there are not predefined icons, such as in the case of proprietary concept boards, this allows the definition of the concept boards according to the user preferences , and selecting the pictograms the user prefers. In a case, the pictograms came from the open-source library ARASAAC[1], in other case the concept boards are a mixture of BLISS symbols and ARASAAC.

One aspect, that surprisingly has been found as very useful by users is the open length of the sounds associated with each symbol. For some users it has been very useful to attach complete sentences to a single pictogram.

Communicator UDP interface

In order to control the communicator with an external device, a short UDP grammar has been designed (Figure 4). The format of the message is the following:

DEVICE ID

COMMAND CODE

COMMAND PARAMS

3 bytes

3 bytes

Variable length

Device ID is used for information purposes only. Command code it is the actual action requested (i.e. RDY to ask for checking the availability of the communicator) or send it (i.e. POS for position CON for Click On, CLK for Click, etc). Command params are the further parameters sent to the communicator and they are command dependent (i.e. the POS command expect a parameter especifying the position to move). The full range of UDP messages is openly available.

figura4

Figure 4. of the interaction between the ABC communicator and the rest of components.

There are 4 scanning techniques:

  • Automatic; when scan on is enabled, the communicator starts scanning and when a click is done, the pictogram is selected and scanning continues.
  • Step; the scanning is produced when a click is done in each pictogram. When the click is not produced the pictogram is selected by a dwelling time.
  • Inverse; when scan on is enabled, the communicator starts scanning and when a click is done, the pictogram is selected and the scanning stops.
  • Directed; the IMU sends a message to indicate a change in the sensor position in two axis and when the click is done, the pictogram in this position is selected.

There are two possibilities of the auditory feedback, when the item is highlighted or when the item is selected. In addition, the scanning speed can be modified between 1 and 10 seconds for the automatic and inverse scanning technique. The dwelling time can be also modified between 1 and 10 for the step scanning technique.