Speech-impaired get a voice

Pittsburgh--Persons with speech, language, learning, and physical disabilities now have a way to communicate in virtually any social or business situation. A lightweight, portable device, called DynaMyte, makes this possible.

The augmentative communication system, made by Sentient Systems Technology Inc., weighs only 3.2 lbs, but contains all of these features:

- A 42,000-term vocabulary list, which can be "concept-tagged" for easy organization and access, to transmit a customized personal voice.

- Ability to design personal pages using a combination of 2,600 Dyna-Syms symbols.

- A built-in remote control for greater independence.

- Powerful software features, including word prediction and search functions.

Using DynaMyte's message window, communicators can edit and store letters, speeches, and other long documents to be spoken or printed. With the DynaBeam infrared receiver, they can access and create files or search the Internet on Macintosh and IBM-compatible PCs--without the hassle of purchasing and connecting cables. And with DECTalk human-voice synthesis software, the unit offers 10 male and female voices ranging from child to adult.

An alarm system reminds users about appointments, when to take their medicine, or even when to wake up in the morning. The alarm can say something, play a digital sound, send an infrared command, and change to a specific communication page.

The unit operates on a 9.6V rechargeable battery pack that provides up to nine hours of continuous service. Communicators have 8- or 16-Mbyte memory-card options to meet their individual needs. A built-in microphone records the digitized messages.

"We wanted to give our product a distinct, yet consistent look," notes Joanne Kaufmann, Sentient's communications coordinator. To ensure this result, Sentient called in RTP Co. (Winona, MN) technicians to work with molders at Prototype Products (Plymouth, MN) on critical color matches of dissimilar materials in the unit's housing, legs, and feet. The parts are molded in a high-quality aluminum tool that can produce 100,000 shots per mold.

The combinations of high- and low-gloss materials used in the unit presented a challenge for the RTP color specialists. A glossier precolored polycarbonate/ABS alloy used for the housing and legs required a critical color match with a low-gloss, flexible thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) in the rubberized feet. To compensate for differences in light reflection, the technicians imparted a richer, deeper color to the low-gloss compound.

The polycarbonate/ABS blend used in the housing also provides durability for users on the go. Lightweight, yet impact resistant, the compound has an Izod impact at 73F of 10.0 ft-lb/inch, and a tensile strength at yield of 9,100 psi.

DynaMyte can also operate as a control center for household appliances, using infrared light beamed through a visibly opaque protective cover. A precolored infrared-transparent polycarbonate selected for the application was tested on a spectrophotometer to make certain the compound met the specified IR wavelength tolerance.

"DynaMyte's powerful software provides people with a greater voice," says Sentient's Kaufmann. "And the device can be taken virtually anywhere."

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