Birch chose a voice that came standard with the V, although it is possible to record and add new voices if those available are not appealing. Birch's V sounds a bit like something you might hear when calling a movie theater for show times but with two important differences: The sound quality is clear and the voice itself has a consistent sound from word to word (rather than sounding like a string of words cobbled together from different digital voices). "I just like it," he says, "because it sounds close to my real voice."
To save time and energy when he is out at restaurants or in other common social situations, Birch has created lists of words and phrases he can summon via the V's touch screen whenever appropriate. "I have a page that has all of the information that I use when I go to a restaurant to eat," he says. "I have a list of food that I like to eat and how I like it prepared."
When Birch needs to compose a more specific question or response (one not on his lists), he initiates the phrase, "Please be patient with me while I am composing what I want to say," in order to buy himself some time when responding to a situation.
Birch also has a string of phrases he can tap when playing Texas Hold 'em poker, a hobby he has taken to in recent years. He can call, raise and fold via his V. He has even downloaded sound bites from the Web—including Homer Simpson's infamous "Woo hoo!" victory cry—that he can play to express feelings when words fall short. "People usually get a kick out of that," he says.
Of course, things don't always go according to plan. During one poker tournament, he defeated another player at the final table and, as she got up to leave the table, his V said, "Good game, you bitch." Birch claims this was an accident, as the two phrases were right next to each other on his screen. "I told her that I hit that button by mistake," he says. "She had a good sense of humor."
For more serious endeavors, Birch uses his V to compose presentations that he can give to different groups of people. He recently submitted a proposal for a speech he would like to make at the upcoming 2010 Assistive Technology Industry Association conference in Orlando.
DynaVox's new Xpress intrigues Birch although he hasn't been able to evaluate a prototype. "They are heading in the right direction," he says. "The smaller the better."