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ToneTable – starting a hands on conversation about tone of voice in AAC

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We are fascinated by the potential of more expressive AAC. In particular, we are interested in speech generating devices with the ability to vary one’s tone of voice, utterance by utterance, and with it the shades of meaning that could be conveyed by one’s (perhaps simpler) words.

In our conversations with researchers who are developing the next generation of speech synthesis, we understand that this is a real possibility.

In our conversations with the AAC community, however, we realize how difficult it is for people not trained as speech technologists to participate in deep and nuanced conversation about it.

We believe that being able to play with tone of voice can unlock inclusive participation of people who use AAC, speech and language therapists and researchers.

So we will bring along ToneTable, a simple apparatus that allows people to interact with synthetic speech by manipulating and sorting cards––and therefore to concentrate not on the technology, but on the role of tone of voice in face to face communication and social interaction.

During this session we will share our own experience as a clinician and designer who have dedicated the past five years to researching and exploring potential role of expressive speech in AAC.

We will then open up the session for participation using ToneTable. Some will be able to participate directly and others by observing and recording their impressions. We will try some simple experiments and conceive of others together, by way of inspiring and directing future research.


Shannon Hennig    
Inclusive Communication
New Zealand

Graham Pullin    
DJCAD, University of Dundee
United Kingdom


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