Tag Archives: App

Building the Digital Talking Mats

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We are delighted that Nick Stewart, Director, Software and Products with Arum Systems, the IT Consultancy who have built the Digital Talking Mats has chosen TM as his favourite project for a case study.

AAC  for all

Here is an extract from his case study describing the Challenge and Process of working with Talking Mats.

 The Challenge
The challenge was taking the existing physical Talking Mats tool and building a digital application suitable for multiple platforms, while maintaining the core ethos of the tool. A significant amount of academic research went into creating the physical product and those principles had to be present in a digital version. The applications had to be extremely intuitive to use and enable better conversations for people with communication difficulties.
The aim was to create 3 digital versions; a browser based version for laptop users and a tablet version for iPad users and Android users. Each application would connect to a cloud server, allowing users to log in from any device, and the tablet versions would allow offline working through syncing with the cloud when a connection was available. There was a requirement to set up a multi-tiered subscription based user account system to match the intended charging model for the digital app.
Our Process
Arum’s approach was to totally immerse ourselves in the Talking Mats business to understand their goals, ethos and objectives. We took time to learn how the Talking Mats ecosystem worked and how they wanted to engage with their customers. By applying our 3D Methodology we were able to break down the deliverables into phases allowing the key building blocks to be delivered first. This also allowed the best use of budget and reduced the time to market the new product.

To read the full case study click here Arum Talking Mats Case Study

Winner in Digital Health Awards

Digital Talking Mats Digital Badge

We are delighted to be a Winner in the People Driven Digital Health Awards which were held in Leeds on Friday 3rd July. These awards were instigated to recognise the work of digital health innovators from across the UK and aim to connect the people who have ideas and make them happen.

The event was organised by mHabitat  and compered by a well known health commentator, Roy Lilley, of the Academy of Fabulous Stuff. The evening was full of fun and energy and we met lots of interesting people and made good connections. There is loads going on in digital health and services should make use of all these fabulous innovations that will improve people’s lives and health services. To get a flavour of the evening follow #PDDAwards15 and to find out about the other winners click here.

Our category, ‘the most impressive third sector digitally enabled service’ recognises third sector services which have embedded digital tools and services into improving people’s experience and outcomes. We very honoured to win this category with our digital Talking Mat. The announcement of the winners was followed by a flurry on Twitter which you can dip into here .

 

 

Adding photos to your digital Talking Mat

holiday tm

Many of you have requested the ability to add your own photos into the digital Talking Mat.The new version of the app allows you to do just that.

It is a great feature particularly, if you want to reflect on a particular activity like a day out or a holiday. I thought I would try it when I returned from my  recent holiday in Spain . You can see I had a great time the only one downside was the flight (as for some strange reason my husband, Jon and I were not placed in adjacent seats) . I placed shopping in the middle (I might have done a little bit more but I know it’s not really Jon’s cup of tea so I restrained myself!). However there were lots of things I loved, seeing my son in his new apartment in Madrid was great, the walking in the Sierra Nevada stunning, though did involve a lot of up and down !  and Grenada, well, the Alhambra has always been somewhere I wanted to visit and it did not disappoint.

I know that in Talking Mats we have always been slightly cautious about the use of photos but I think where places are concerned and where the photos relate to the immediate experience of the person then they can be really helpful. However, I also think the difference in the image ‘going out for a drink’ and ‘meals out’ demonstrates clearly the pitfall of photos. In the ‘meals out’ photo that I took there is too much visual information and without the written caption you probably would struggle to guess what that photo means. The symbol  of ‘going for a drink’ is much clearer and will work for lots of ‘going out for a drink’ situations.There is an additional risk  that that the photo of my ‘meals out’  that I took  becomes too specific to that particular meal rather than mean ‘meals out’ throughout the holiday if I had taken a photo of a more generic plate of food that might  lessen that risk.

Maybe I should have used this photo!

meal image

Adding images from your camera roll is an easy feature to use. After you have selected your thinker and added a new session you get to the ‘session set up’ page. There is a button on the top left hand page that says ‘Add local image file’ click this and go to your camera roll. Select the image and type the caption. you can select as many images as you need. The images will then appear after the blanks when you carry out the Talking Mats session with your thinker.

I think this new feature of being able to add your own images means that you could use the Talking Mats in really creative ways. It would be a great way to reflect on a trip e.g. schools could use the photos to talk to the children about their experience of a particularly outing. This could be the basis of  a great group discussion projected onto a white board. It could enable people to reflect and express their views on all type of experiences e.g. transitions, work experience, going to college, where to live, visiting their health centre etc.

If you already have the digital pro you will get a free upgrade to include this feature.  If  you don’t have the digital pro version  and want it click here to buy

Using Talking Mats with eye gaze


Many thanks to Helen Paterson, one of our accredited trainers for this fascinating blog.

Now that Talking Mats is accessible in a digital format, the Talking Mats team are often asked ‘Can it be used on an eye gaze device?’ . Of course, for those who use eye pointing reliably, they can use a standard Talking Mat, but there are those individuals with whom we work with who may want to use their eye gaze device to use a Talking Mat, and who find the digital format more accessible. We would suggest that this is only done with a client who is already familiar with eye gaze , due to the extra effort required both to use eye gaze and to make decisions when using a mat. There are many other access methods with which you could use and access Talking Mats Pro, such as a head mouse, chin joystick or touch screen, but for this blog we will focus upon eye gaze. Here’s how we made it possible, and I am sure there may be other ways which we would love to hear about!

  1. To use Talking Mats Pro directly using eye gaze the person really needs to be calibrated on a device, and they require a level of calibration that is good enough that they are able to access a mouse emulator or Gaze selection on Tobii.
  2. You must ensure that the mouse emulation or Gaze selection features are set up and the person understands what the features are and what they mean e.g: left click, drag and double click.
  3. Open up Talking Mats pro on your account.
  4. You will need to select the topic, topscales and symbols for your client, as this will make it easier with less work for your client, although this is something you would do anyway as the person facilitating the mat.
  5. Now go through the question and the topscales as you usually would and explain them to your client.
  6. Select the first symbol and place it on the mat where they can see it.

This is where the 2 systems differ:

Mouse emulation: mouse emulation In mouse emulation mode, the user is emulating and controlling a mouse pointer on the screen. This function is available with software such as: Tobii Gaze Interaction in Mouse Emulation Mode (shown above), Alea Intelligaze, Eye Tribe with Dwell Clicker, Tellus 4 with TM4 eye tech, or the Windows App within the Sensory Software’s The Grid 2 FastTalker2 user.

  1. Client first needs to open the mouse function menu by fixing his or her gaze on the small grey icon which will open the mouse menu.
  2. Client then fixates gaze to select the drag function (shown above)
  3. Then the client will select the symbol s/he wants to move by fixating on it.
  4. Once fixated, they symbol will ‘drag’ around the screen with the clients gaze. 5
  5. They will then fixate on a point to ‘drop’ it.

See Video

Gaze selection (Tobii):

gaze selection With Gaze selection (Tobii only) the user can control a Windows desktop with a two step selection method. The first step involves selecting the desired task from the taskbar on the right of the screen. The person looks at it until it changes to white. The person then looks at the part of the screen where they want the task to take place.

  1. The client clicks selects drag function at the top of the Menu
  2. They then look at the symbol 3
  3. They then look where they wish to place the symbol.

This does require some more thinking on the side of the client as they need to look to where they want it to go and they are not just dragging it as they are in mouse emulation mode.

See video

For individuals who do not have a calibration good enough to use mouse emulation or gaze selection, it is a little more complex. A Talking Mat could be emulated from software such as The Grid 2 or Communicator, but it would not involve the software from Talking Mats Pro or dragging of symbols and moving them to where the person wants them to go.

Talking Mats…….Is it suitable for Parents?


Many thanks to Lynne Baxter who has answered the question: Is Talking Mats suitable for parents to use?

I have been asked to write an account of my experience, as a parent, of completing the on-line course available for Taking Mats. I completed this course in April this year 2014 and I am very proud of my achievement. First some background information. I am nobody special just a parent of a child who has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder/Condition. My son is in a mainstream setting and has limited access to support and resources due to financial restrictions. Through time I realised that I was his main resource for support and really needed to improve my knowledge and understanding of this “hidden disability”. I had already heard about the wonderful resource that is Talking Mats, the tool that help makes communication easier for many. I started to do my research and find out more about it. I am not a professional who has been trained on the Autism Spectrum, my knowledge is only from my experience of having a child on the spectrum. I was unsure if I would be able to do this. After much consideration I took the decision to give it a try! I am so glad I did. While insuring that the product would be of benefit to my family, I nervously contacted the wonderful supportive team at Talking Mats and asked them what they thought. They were very encouraging and I felt empowered to try the training course! They assured me that they would help me as much as they could. This was very reassuring to know and gave me the reinforcement I was looking for.

Every week I was given access to each module which I completed to the best of my ability. Anxiously waiting for the result and the feedback from the team to see if I was able to attempt the next module was normal for a Wednesday while doing this course. To my great relief the feedback was positive and before I knew it I was nearing the last assessment and the completion of the course. The last assessment involved me and my son using the resource Talking Mats, this had to be filmed and sent for grading! Once again I had to push myself out of my comfort zone! It will be worth it for the benefit the training would give to my family. A friend came and videoed the situation and it was sent off for feedback and grading.

I passed! The feedback was amazing and now I can use the resource that will help my son explain his thoughts and feelings in a concrete way. The hardest thing for me was not to influence the results, I had to make sure it was his views and not mine! I have now registered to use the app and I am continually surprised by the evidence. I am delighted with the continued support from the team and I am very grateful to them for the resource. My son finds it hard to express his emotions, thoughts and feelings. This gives me hard evidence of his opinions and is great to have to reference too throughout the years!

Having to use open questions has helped my son communicate more than he knows! A very good result!

For information about the online training click here