Save Lives with First Voice ResQR!!
Imagine you're on the perfect family vacation. The sky is clear, the sun is hot, and there's just that right touch of cool ocean breeze. The sound of the waves has lulled you into a peaceful drowse, while your family frolics in the surf somewhere down the beach. Suddenly someone screams, and people are running and shouting. You rouse from your half-slumber with the sinking realization that the commotion is in the general direction of your wife and kids. You confusedly start walking towards them, then running when your eyes confirm undoubtedly that something is indeed very wrong! You rush up to find that one of your children is laying inert on the sand, with your wife crying and screaming next to him. Worse yet, nobody in the gathering crowd seems to know what to do. You drop to your son's side struggling to remember CPR training you had back in high-school, but your mind is frozen on the image of your son's non-breathing chest, and the seconds are ticking by. Someone in the crowd finally has enough sense to run for help, but you doubt that your son can wait that long. You suddenly remember that you have your WM phone tucked in a side pocket of your shorts along with a brief recollection of your wife scolding you for bringing it along on the trip. You vaguely remember buying and installing an application for your phone called First Voice ResQR--something about first-aid voice commands--and as you whip out your Touch, it occurs to you that it might just help you to save your son's life...
OK, so I waxed a little dramatic and maybe weird (Extra, Extra...Son Saved by a PDA!!). You have to admit, it made you think, though? Our lives take on such a mundane routine that we often come totally apart in a crisis. Medical decisions requiring first-aid are time critical and improper actions can further injure or kill the victim. Even people with first-aid training can panic or become confused. That's where your Windows Mobile PDA/phone can come in very useful, and seriously could mean the difference between life or death. Think of it as your constant knowledgeable compananion (not hard for most geeks), one that has a very large capacity for storing and retrieving information quickly. Why not task it to provide this critical information and assistance?
The application I'm reviewing, First Voice, is only one example of the many ways you can use your handheld to aid in emergency situations. For instance, you could keep a list or database of emergency actions and first-aid steps using a number of available methods (database, list, etc.). You could make sure emergency 911 is on speed-dial and voice command shortcuts. These will help, certainly, but the key to properly executing first-aid when really under the gun lies in your ability to recall the information quickly and concisely. Most importantly you need to make the right decisions on the course of treatment. A database or list can't really do that for you. Only a program tailored to helping you accurately navigate first-aid decision points can, and that is exactly what First Voice does.
The install is the ugly side of First Voice, if there is one. I hate desktop installs, as you may know (if you ever read my reviews, not that you should...just saying). The download is big (125MB zipped, 65MB installed), and of course the application should be installed to a storage card. So you wait and wait while Active Sync moves it to your device, and then your device moves it to the storage card after you select the storage card install option. It took me about 30 minutes to install it. It is both voice and text oriented, requiring hundreds of pre-recorded instructional .mp3 sound files, which helps explain the application's large size. The vendor responded that they can't compress the quality too much, less there be a degradation in the audible instructions. They do offer the app pre-installed on SD and CF cards for a little extra, and are experimenting with a slimmer web-based version. If you have a large capacity card, you can easily squeeze this one in, but it is a problem for low-end devices without much expansion. Considering what First Voice does, there might not be much that can be done about the size issue.
Using First Voice:
There is no on-device help, which puzzled me at first. After installing a new application, I usually consult the help files, but then it dawned on me...This is an application that shouldn't need help. It is a form of help already. It has to be very simple, and intuitive, and so it is. The initial launch presents a dire splash message warning about the seriousness of giving first-aid (which should be heeded) and the consequences. It will shortly disappear to reveal the First Voice main interface. A matrix of numbered and color-coded tabs.
The tabs are grouped into 12 categories of possible first-aid situations. I'm guessing they are color-coded based on seriousness of injury with life-threatening being at the top of the list, but not sure. I ran through several of course, but used mainly the Bone Sprain for this review. After selecting #8 for bone sprain, a navigation and instructional menu appears (see above).
When the initial navigation screen appears, a voice starts coming from your handheld asking you the question presented at the first decision gate (see the large text box area shown above). "Is the victim conscience or breathing" is typical for many injury groups, and often the first thing you will see or hear from First Voice. There isn't much eye-pleasing or fancy about the graphics, but you wouldn't expect there should be in this type of application. The no-nonsense and functional approach is obvious. The buttons are large enough that they could be operated by finger, and the interface is spartan and uncluttered. The text area will display pertinent information about the questions/actions required for each step of the first-aid process. The voice will speak each message, and even pause for a time when instructing you to check some aspect of the victim's condition. At any time, as conditions warrant, you can go home (by pressing home) or go directly to CPR instructions (by pressing CPR). The arrow buttons along the bottom can be used to navigate back and forth through the various instructions, and Play or Stop to replay or stop the voice instruction.
First Voice is excellent at leading you through the myriad aspects of a real emergency situation, asking questions about bleeding and shock along the way (even for a sprain), and provides a symptoms list to verify conditions. I did note some small problems, where voice instructions didn't play or where it appeared that the text was too long for the display. I recommend First Voice fix any such issues, so there is no possible confusion. I also recommend that they include some basic drawings linked into the text where appropriate--I noted some instructions referred to another handbook for reference drawings.
I like the concept of First Voice, and think it is as valuable as having a first-aid or emergency road-kit in your car. Outside my minor grumble about the overlarge install, it worked quite well. Having taken a fair amount of first-aid instruction from my days in the military, it made me realize how rusty my own knowledge has become. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be available through our discounted VIP site here at the magazine, but I found it at palminfocenter.com for $21.99. The vendor will ship it direct to you pre-loaded on a storage card for $49.99.