Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tobii Throws the Gauntlet Down

The variety of augmentative communication (aug comm) software is exploding.  Devices have become easier to navigate for the end user, and easier for the caregiver to program.   Now families and schools can pay just a few hundred dollars, or up to ten-thousand dollars and more depending on their need and budget.

There is a lot of competition for developers.  Some of the pioneers continue to make dedicated aug comm devices. Such devices are very powerful computers, typically running Windows. They can serve as a word processor, internet browser, and even a remote for environmental controls (thermostat, t.v., radio). 

With the development of iTouches and iPads, several companies have rolled out dedicated aug comm apps, which can be purchased at a fraction of the cost of the full blown computers. An iTouch with such software may sell for as little as $300.  For some users, this may be all they need, though they lose the many bells and whistles that a full computer offers. 

One company has decided to offer something on both fronts. Tobii offers a "Lite" version of Sono Flex, which is their free version of the iPad Aug Comm app-ware.  For $99 you can upgrade to the full version Sono Flex.  What stands out about this product, is that if after a using the app on an iPad the user is ready to step up to a full aug comm computer, Tobii offers a couple different powerful aug comm computers.  What's really nice about this product line, is that regardless of whether the user is on an iPad or computer, the icons are the same, and there is a lot of continuity in appearance in general. The result is that for the user who learns to use an iPad, and later transitions to the computer, the learning curve is not sharp.  

If you purchase a Tobii device you also receive Tobii's new augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) solutions that help individuals with speech impairments communicate. This is a software package with approximately 15 + CDs. The software supports emergent to advanced communicators, and includes Literacy software options.

Rather than argue about why their Aug Comm device is superior to an iPad, or argue that their iPad app is infinitely less expensive, Tobii eliminates the debate and offers multiple elegant solutions for all communicators.  Tobii has thrown down the gauntlet to other developers.  

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