Testing out the tech – Allora

©2012 Caroline Briggs

©2012 Caroline Briggs

One of the most unexpected benefits of my foray into stand up comedy is the fact that everyone in the AAC (Augmentative and alternative communication) world now knows of my existence. In fact, if it wasn’t for speech therapy students I wouldn’t have nearly as many followers on Twitter as I do!

This is a good thing in a number of ways. Firstly, it has allowed me to make good contacts in what is a vital area for me. I’ll be honest, I didn’t realise that the AAC community was so big until I started doing stand up. Secondly, it has allowed me to provide feedback as a user to the people that matter and the people who can change things for the better. And thirdly, it has allowed me to trial new products which may be able to enhance my ability to communicate.

After trying out the Proloquo2Go app on my iPad, I was impressed with it so much that I now use it all the time when I’m on stage. With this in mind, I jumped at the opportunity when I was offered the chance to trial the new Allora communication device from Jabbla.

Having used the device for three weeks, I was ready to give feedback to Jabbla regarding my use of the device.

I used the Allora while I was at work and also on certain evenings when I was out with friends.  The Allora is a slightly larger device than what I am used to, however it does have some interesting features.

The feature that makes this device different to other devices of this type is the detachable display.  This is the display that the conversation partner uses when listening to me.  I found that when sat at a table with a number of friends, I could detach the display and place it in the middle of the table for all to see, or pass it to individuals who I wanted to talk to privately.

I found that because of this, people focussed less on my device and so this reduced people crowding over me or looking over my shoulder at my display to see what I was typing.  Ironically, this enabled me to feel more included in the group.

Other aspects of the device I liked were the slightly larger keys which made it easier to type my messages out.  The clarity of the screen when used outside was good and the sound of the voice coming out of the device speakers was good too.

One of the most useful features was the size of the user screen which had the ability to adjust the font size and the number of lines viewed.  When I was typing larger messages, being able to see most of the message I was typing allowed me to keep my train of thought and, if I needed to make changes, the cursor keys on the keyboard allowed me to easily do so.

I would make a few improvements however. I mentioned that I liked the detachable screen but I found it slightly fiddly to detach.  I assume that over time the mechanism would loosen a little and this would be easier to do.

The device comes with an ‘in-use’ case but doesn’t cover the keyboard when not in use.  It would be good to be able to cover it up when I am not using it, although it does come with a storage bag that does cover it up.

Overall, I found that the Allora gave me everything that I would expect from a communication device.  It was reliable, the displays are bright and clear (even in bright daylight) and the sound quality was excellent.

The detachable display helped to include me more in group discussions.  There is a trade off with size compared to other devices.  The Allora is slightly larger than other similar devices, but this is due to the larger user display and extra keys on the keyboard.  So it is a larger device, but the editing of text is so much easier than on other devices.

You can get more information about the Allora at http://www.techcess.co.uk/allora/

While I’m talking about communication, have a watch of the talk I did at the Communication Matters conference last year, where I mention the finer points of using a communication aid to deliver my jokes….