Intel has worked with renowned physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking for over 25 years in assisting his speech through computers. For the past two years, Intel has worked on upgrading Hawking’s computer system using the SwiftKey SDK.
The current computer system uses a cursor which scans an on-screen keyboard, and when Hawking blinks, the cursor stops and selects the function or word at that location. Intel’s initial thoughts were to build a new system from scratch.
“Stephen has used the same interface for decades,” explains Lama Nachman, principal engineer at User Experience Research at Intel Labs (seated next to Hawking in photo above).
“He is very adamant about keeping it. So our task was to retain the familiar user experience, but make that experience more intuitive and powerful.”
Over the past two years, Intel has worked closely with Hawking to update his system. Using the SwiftKey SDK, they were able to add word prediction and auto-completion, which drastically reduces the time it takes Stephen Hawking to communicate and build sentences.
“If you’re using Microsoft Word, which Stephen uses a lot, there are a few sets of functions that you want to use most often — open a new document, save, edit, and so on,” explains Nachman.
“We added a lot of contextual menus to his system, so he can select one with a single click, rather than having to go to the mouse, then to the menu, then to select an option. We created a lot of these new contextual options throughout the system to speed up use.”
Once the system is complete, Intel will open source it to allow others to pick up and continue developing it to further assist others with disabilities and communication challenges.
You have to admit, it’s pretty cool seeing Intel team up with SwiftKey – an app most of us use on our smartphones to improve our communication skills – to help improve communication by individuals with disabilities. It will be interesting to see where this goes once Stephen Hawking’s speech platform is open sourced and other developers have a chance to take it further.Source: Intel
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