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Speech difficulties with mobility constraint

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Speech difficulties with mobility constraint
« on: September 17, 2017, 09:44:17 am »
Greetings,

I purchased an Echo for my cousin who suffers from MS. This promises to be life changing tool for her. She's used other assistive technologies, with varying degrees of success, so I'm optimistic. She is currently completely unable to move, but is able to speak. She can be understood in face-to-face conversation, but her speech is weak, quiet, and sometimes there are pauses in her speech.

I setup her Echo, positioned it about 10 feet from her, but it was unable to detect her spoken commands. I moved it within about 5 feet, but it still could not hear her voice.

i am aware of the remote controller device, but it would require she press a button to activate the device, which she is unable to do. Ideally, she would issue voice commands to the Echo via a Bluetooth voice-activated microphone. She could then go through the voice training process, which might help the Echo understand her.

The problem is that the Echo currently doesn't appear to support any microphones other than the built-in mic on the remote controller. Is that correct? Or does anyone know of an add-on product or workaround that might solve this problem?

Has anyone else tried Echo under the same circumstances? Can anyone comment on the voice training feature to get Alexa to understand commands given with theses types of speech issues?

Thanks in advance for any thoughts or input. I so want to give my cousin some quality of life. Currently she had none.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2017, 09:50:45 am by KenMahler »

Offline AlanH

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Re: Speech difficulties with mobility constraint
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2017, 10:09:26 am »
Would some form of speech amplifier be practical for your cousin? Something like this:
http://www.inclusive.co.uk/echovoice-ev6
This one is “hands free”.
https://www.rehabmart.com/product/chattervox-voice-amplifier1-25262.html
« Last Edit: September 17, 2017, 10:12:50 am by AlanH »

Online jwlv

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Re: Speech difficulties with mobility constraint
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2017, 01:03:27 pm »
One alternative is to take apart the Echo (or Dot) and wire your own external microphone to it. Then you can place the microphone on a gooseneck mount and adjust it to where it can pick up your cousin's voice.

I've taken apart hardware devices to make them more accessible many years ago. One example was for a friend who was mostly paralyzed except for one hand. But even that one hand is very, very weak. I got her a touchpad for her computer. It was a capacitive touchpad and those were pretty expensive back then. Although she can move the mouse cursor around, she couldn't press the buttons. And back then, a single or double tap on the touchpad did not register a click. Touchpads just didn't work that way before. So I took apart a cheap mouse and salvaged the parts to make a platform with large spring-loaded switches for the mouse buttons. It worked well for her needs.

Then later on, I got her Dragon Naturally Speaking so that she can use the computer by voice. Dragon was far from perfect. I'd say its accuracy was only 80-90%. But even then, it was still extremely useful for dictating emails instead of using the virtual keyboard to click on one letter at a time. The microphone I used was mounted in the same manner as I described above.

Re: Speech difficulties with mobility constraint
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2017, 01:26:42 pm »
I can't add anything to this post other than to say how terribly sorry I feel for your cousin  :'(  Bless you for trying to improve her quality of life.  I also have MS (26 years) but am completely mobile.  Every episode I've had, I've fully recovered.  I hope you're able to find a solution that can open up a whole new world for her! 
I know they are more expensive, but you might try a Google Home to see if it can hear your cousin better.  I find that Google home hears better than Alexa.  If it doesn't work, you can return it to the store.  If it does work, you'll find that GH has vastly more information. It can answer questions that Alexa cannot.  And that's to be expected from the search engine that it is.  One music feature I really love with GH is when you ask it to play a song, it will continue to play music similar to what you asked for.  For example, if I ask GH to play "Everything I Own by Bread", it will continue to play 70's soft rock.   

Re: Speech difficulties with mobility constraint
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2017, 11:44:04 am »
Thank you for your kind words. I hope so, too. At least the possibilities are there; the challenge is getting Alexa to hear her shaky quiet voice. I think the only thing that will work is to get the Echo to detect her voice, and then train it to understand the commands. I'll keep searching for absolution...

Re: Speech difficulties with mobility constraint
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2017, 10:30:55 pm »
i bought one as my wife has had MS for 26 years now
It does have to be close to her in the bedroom but she can get it to call me
As for all other gadgets the all have buttons i.e. walky talky ,phones etc and they are hard to use with MS
never tried a GH so couldnt comment
but nice to see family helping out

Just add this on
I have a Motorola Baby monitor cost 11 quid of ebay secondhand
 I put the actual monitor a couple of metres away from my wife and put the receiver next to Alexa ,
Problem solved  leave the volume on high on the receiver,
you can put it next to your cousin if that helps
But Alexa works perfect
this is the model  its very powerful i go into our garden 200 yards away and i can hear my wife when she wants me
This is the model Motorola MBP160 Digital Audio Baby Monitor
hope that helps
« Last Edit: October 09, 2017, 02:54:29 am by chrisarvor »

Re: Speech difficulties with mobility constraint
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2017, 08:59:09 am »
Thank you for your suggestion. I actually just bought a voice amplifier with mic — same Idea as a baby monitor. I think this will definitely help Alexa hear my cousin’s voice commands. As you said, the baby monitor worked for you. I’ll report back, but I’m optimistic.