Interview With The Team Of Jellow Communicator App


Jellow Communicator app is an alternative communication application that was developed in India at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai. This is a wonderful and friendly AAC solution that offers an unique way to enhance communication and expressive skills in our child. It is an honour to interview the team that developed the Jellow Communicator.

 

Q) Please share a few details about the team behind Jellow.

Jellow has been developed after considerable efforts from a host of people. The list of Jellow
team members is as follows –

• Project conception, investigation and supervision:
Prof. Ravi Poovaiah and Dr. Ajanta Sen
• Initial concept development:
Anchal Kumar, Samraat Sardesai, Peter Joseph, Antara Hazarika
• Software development:
Rahul Rupchand Jidge, Narayana Reddy, Aastha Joshi, Sumeet Agrawal, Roopa N
Sahoo, Shruti Gupta, Harshit Budhraja, Ayaz Alam, Aditya Bharadwaj, Nikhil Ahirrao,
Yogesh Masaye, Dhairya Dand, Pritam Pebam
• Icons, visual design, and voice:
Vinaya Tawde, Anisha Malhotra, Nikita Iyer, Ganesh Gajjela, Simone Sen, Sumedh
Garud
• Translation:
Sachin Sonawane, Dr. Sudha Srinivasan, Rupak Misra
• Research, verbiage development, and user studies:
Dr. Sudha Srinivasan
• Website design:
Prof. Ravi Poovaiah, Roopa N Sahoo, Vaibhav Shah, Yogesh Masaye
• Support:
E-kalpa project sponsored under NMEICT by MHRD and Microsoft Design Expo
2004. We have just received a 1-year seed grant through the UNICEF Innovation Fund
for developing open source solutions to aid communication in children with speech
impairment.

 

 

Q) What was your inspiration behind creating Jellow communicator?

The groundwork for the app began way back in 2004 during a project under Microsoft Design
Expo. Children with Cerebral Palsy often have speech difficulties, which can significantly
limit their ability to communicate with their surrounding world. These deficits can adversely
impact the child’s overall social and cognitive development. Jellow was therefore envisioned
as a tool that could help the child with Cerebral Palsy communicate with their surrounding
world. Initially, Jellow was conceptualized as a physical aid for children, but given the
associated hardware costs, this idea could not be implemented in cost-effective ways.
More recently, around 2.5 years back, we have expanded the target audience of Jellow to
include children with Autism, Dyspraxia, Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, and Intellectual
Disabilities. Moreover, we have conceptualized Jellow as a holistic and comprehensive
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) system that uses icons to enable
speech in people learning to speak or with communication difficulties. Jellow is available in
multiple formats including as flashcards, E-book, desktop version compatible with laptops
and desktops, Android application and soon-to-be available iOS version. Jellow is also
compatible with external hardware switches for people with mobility impairments and with
the TalkBack feature in Android for people with visual impairments. All these resources are
available for download free of cost from our website http://www.jellow.org

 

 

 

Q) Congratulations on recently completing 2 years, how has the journey been so far?

Thank you very much for your wishes. The journey so far has been good. We have a
dedicated team that is very passionate about the work we are doing here. We have also been
fortunate to be awarded a seed grant through the UNICEF Innovation Fund for our work.
These funds have helped us sustain this project and continue to refine the product further
based on user feedback. We also won the Nipman Foundation Microsoft Equal Opportunity
awards in 2017 for technology-based innovations to aid persons with disability and more
recently the mBillionth South Asia 2018 awards in the category of ‘Inclusion and
Empowerment’.

 

Although the spread and diffusion of our innovation is a slow process, we are confident that
we will be able to reach a lot more users over the next few years. In order to improve
awareness regarding Jellow and to train stakeholders, over the past year, we have been
conducting workshops every month in different metros in the country. We hope that these
efforts will help us reach the target audience and they will be able to benefit from our product.
Lastly, we are very thankful to our users and stakeholders namely parents/caregivers,
therapists, and special educators who have really supported us immensely by actively
providing us feedback and suggestions to improve our product even further. It is through their
support that we continue to grow and make efforts to empower people with communication
difficulties.

 

Q) What are the main features of Jellow?

Jellow Communicator is a friendly Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
solution that uses icons to aid communication in people learning to speak or with difficulty
with speech and language including children with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Dyspraxia etc.
Jellow is an ideal solution for beginner-level communicators. It is available in multiple
formats including as flashcards, E-book, desktop version compatible with laptops and
desktops, and mobile/tablet application (see Figure below). Jellow is also compatible with
external hardware switches for people with mobility impairments and with the TalkBack
feature in Android for people with visual impairments. All these resources are available for
download free of cost from our website http://www.jellow.org.

The Jellow system currently has over 1000 icons and around 10000 lines of pre-programmed
text. The application version is currently available in English (Indian accent, American
accent, British accent), Hindi, and Bengali languages. Translation into Marathi, Tamil, and
Gujarati languages is underway. In the Jellow application, with a couple of icon clicks, the
user can easily communicate their likes/dislikes and needs with the surrounding world.
Moreover, the application also has a keyboard option that will allow users to speak out aloud
custom-made sentences. We have provided customization options pertaining to display size (3
or 9 icons per screen), display mode (picture + text and picture mode) and type of keyboard
(QWERTY and serial) in the current system. We are presently working on allowing users to
further personalize the app to the needs of individual children.

 

 

 

Q) Tell us more about the unique feature and benefits on using the expressive buttons
on home screen..

The expressive icons in Jellow lie at the core of Jellow’s interface. These 6 icons of “like”,
“don’t like”, “yes”, “no”, “more” and “less” form the ‘Emotional Language Protocol (ELP)’
that allows users to easily, with a couple of button clicks, convey their likes, dislikes, and
needs with caregivers and peers. By clicking on any category button followed by an
expressive button, the user can speak using Jellow.

For instance, if the user clicks on the “Eating” category button and then the “like” expressive
icon on the left top corner, the application will say out aloud, “I like to eat”. If they click on
the “like” button again, the app will say, “I really like to eat”. Similarly, if the user clicks on
the “yes” button, the app will say, “I want to eat”. If they click on the “yes” button again, the
app says, “I really want to eat”. Likewise, clicking on the “more” button once or twice will
lead to speech output of either, “I want to eat some more” or “I really want to eat some
more”. Clicking the right hand side expressive buttons of “don’t like”, “no”, and “less” once
will lead to the following sentences: “I don’t like to eat”, “I don’t want to eat”, and “I don’t
want to eat any more”. If the user clicks on these expressive buttons a second time, the
sentences produced would be “I really don’t like to eat”, “I really don’t want to eat”, and “I
really don’t want to east any more”. In this way, for each category icon, the user can generate
12 sentences using the 6 expressive icons. The expressive icons are also visually very
appealing, intuitive and easy to understand for children. Children can use them in isolation or
with category buttons to easily form full sentences for communicating with others.

 

 

 

Q) Please share few details about the recent updates in Jellow like good and bad habits,
and socially appropriate behaviours.

We have added several new icons in Jellow. These icons have been added based on
suggestions coming from parents, therapists (PTs, OTs, SLPs) and special educators. For
instance, parents said that often their children have difficulty in understanding do’s and don’t
in terms of socially appropriate behaviors for instance, waiting for your turn or maintaining 1
arm distance while talking to others. They also frequently engage in undesirable behaviors
like hitting themselves or others, pinching others, etc. They felt that children are more
receptive to technology and hence it would be a good idea to include these icons within
Jellow so that parents can use Jellow as a tool to teach children good habits. In fact in the past
few updates of Jellow, we have added several new icons and categories based on feedback
from parents, therapists, and teachers including icons pertaining to money, safety, therapy,
places, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

Q) You recently added support for Bengali language, a few details about other Indian
languages you want to add to Jellow.

We are working on translating the present content of Jellow into several regional languages
including Marathi, Tamil, Kannada, and Gujarati. So far we have provided support for
English (Indian accent), Hindi, and Bengali. Please note that for Hindi, Bengali, and English
(India) languages, we are using the Google Text-to-Speech engine. However, for all other
languages (Marathi, Tamil, Kannada, Gujarati, etc.), Text-to-Speech voices are currently
unavailable. Therefore, we will be recording audios for these regional languages.

Q) Tell us more about Jellow flashcards and Jellow book and how we can use them with
our children

 

 

The Jellow Flashcards and Jellow Book were developed to cater to users who might not have
access to smart phones or tablets. Moreover, we conceptualized Jellow as a comprehensive
system where the user experiences the same icons and visual language while using the system
in different media including as flashcards, in the Jellow book, in the desktop version, and the
mobile/tablet application version. The Jellow flashcards can be used for early learners to
teach them picture-word association (the association between the truck picture and the word,
‘Truck’) and to get them introduced to the Jellow symbol set before they start using the
application/software version of Jellow. The book version can be used again at home, school,
or therapy settings where printouts can be taken of specific screens and children can start
practicing communication by pointing at pictures on these printouts.

 

 

Q) Please share a few details about Jellow Desktop

The desktop version of Jellow is available at http://www.jellow.org/web/
This version will work on the Google Chrome browser on any laptop or desktop (Windows,
Mac, Linux, etc.). Currently, the desktop version is available in English (Indian accent).
Support for all other languages that are part of the Jellow application will be soon available
on the Desktop version.

 

 

Q) Would you like to share a few details about your plans for Jellow

We are in the process of developing a customization version of the Jellow application where
the user can add new icons, edit existing icons and also make their own custom boards for
their children/clients by assembling selected icons. These features will allow Jellow to be
tailored to the needs of individual children. Moreover, we are also working on developing an
adult version of Jellow – Jellow Senior that will have a larger core vocabulary. Jellow Senior
will include words related to grammatical parts of speech and these words can then be
assembled to make a wide variety of sentences. We are presently working on translating the
present content of Jellow into several regional languages including Marathi, Tamil, Kannada,
and Gujarati. Lastly, we will be releasing the iOS version of Jellow within the next month.
Jellow Customized Jellow in Marathi

 

 

I am sure you are as impressed as I am with the host of features available in Jellow Communicator. Whatever option you choose – Jellow communicator app/desktop/flashcards/book, you can access them for Free. No need to spend thousands of rupees for an AAC solution for your child! A heartfelt thanks to the team of Jellow Communicator!!

 

 

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