2002 Conference Proceedings

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COMMUNICATING BETTER AND FASTER: NEW PRODUCTS AND RESEARCH FROM APPLIED HUMAN FACTORS 1,2,3

James E. Schroeder, Ph.D., CHFP
Applied Human Factors, Inc.
P.O. Box 228
Helotes, TX 78023
Phone: 888-243-0098
or 210-408-0098
Fax: 210-408-0097
Internet:http://www.ahf-net.com 
E-Mail: sales@ahf-net.com

Summary of Products Available

Applied Human Factors, Inc. (AHF) conducts research and develops software in the area of assistive technology. In this paper, AHF's latest assistive software programs are described and relevant research findings presented. AHF products are based largely on input from end users. This input can be formal (as in a controlled user test) or informal (as in a suggestion offered in a phone call or e-mail). Following is a list of products along with corresponding descriptions. All programs listed below run in Windows(r)95, (r)98, (r)Me, (r)NT, (r)2000, and (r)XP. Free demonstration copies are available for downloading on the AHF web site or on a free CD.

REACH Interface Author(tm) is an on-screen keyboard authoring system that was developed over the past nine years. REACH(tm) comes with word prediction, speech augmentation, a training "Tour", assessment battery, windows management features, scanning options, speech options, a Keyboard Author for creating new keyboards or modifying the 160+ keyboards that come with it, and numerous other assistive technology tools. Virtually all of the features in SoothSayer Word Prediction(tm) (see below) are built into REACH(tm) 3.0. Following are some of the new features available in the new version 3.0:

REACH with Smart Key Technology(tm) is an extremely popular "add on" for REACH(tm). Smart Key Technology predicts the next letter in the word being typing. Keys that are unlikely to follow the letter(s) already typed can be removed, grayed out, or their colors changed. In a recent experiment, Smart KeysTM was found to significantly increase typing rate for subjects using scanning keyboards [mean increase in typing rate = 41.9% (N=48)]. There was a significant increase in typing errors, but it was small when compared to the to the increase in typing rate. A significant increase in typing rate also was found for "point-and-click" typing, but only when the keyboard was new to the user (e.g., an alphabetic keyboard). Hypothesized sources of performance enhancement are 1) reduced visual scanning time, 2) simpler displays, 3) reduced selection time (for scanning keyboards), and 4) reduced probability of selecting an incorrect key (because if the user accidentally misses a target and clicks where a key is now absent, a typing error has been avoided).

SoothSayer Word Prediction(tm) is a word completion program with many features: speak letters, words, sentences, highlighted; caret tracking; abbreviation expansion; sentence completion; "AutoType" completes words automatically; a scanning "WordTips" feature individually shows and speaks the words in the list; multiple dictionaries; an option that builds a dictionary from an existing *.txt file; and much more.

ScanBuddy(tm) is a program that lets a user click, double-click, or drag the mouse anywhere on the display by using scanning techniques or with hot keys on the keyboard. The most standard scanning method combines a special form of row/column scanning (to identify a specific section on the screen) followed by line scanning (to select a specific point). Options are available for offering the active application first and "AutoClicking" (automatic clicks when ScanBuddy(tm) determines the selected location is likely to require a click (e.g., menu options, buttons, etc.).

REACH Scan Plus(tm) is a software bundle that combines REACH Interface Author(tm), Smart Keys(tm), and ScanBuddy(tm). This program is a must for users who scan because they can use REACH(tm) with Smart Keys(tm) to enter text or other activities often conducted with a hardware keyboard and use ScanBuddy(tm) to perform other activities that are usually performed with a mouse or other pointer. REACH(tm) and ScanBuddy(tm) work seamlessly together: REACH(tm) offers the keyboard, then the word prediction options, then the REACH Button Bar, then ScanBuddy(tm). When the user is finished with ScanBuddy(tm) (e.g., opening a web browser or scrolling down a document), scanning control is seamlessly passed back to REACH.

SoothSayer Scan Plus(tm) is another software bundle that combines SoothSayer Word Prediction(tm) and ScanBuddy(tm). This combination is perfect for users who want to increase their typing speed and accuracy when using a hardware keyboard (i.e., by using SoothSayer(tm)) and also want to minimize their use of a mouse or other pointer (i.e., by using ScanBuddy(tm) in "Keyboard Input" mode).

Mouse&Caret Buddy(tm) can help any user locate the text caret and mouse cursor more easily by showing pictures next to them. While fun for everyone, this program offers the greatest benefits for persons with limited vision or attention span. The user can choose from a variety of pictures that come with Mouse&Caret Buddy or from other sources (e.g., clip art). The size of the pictures can be adjusted as well as the location of the "hot spot". Options are available for showing the buddies "always", when "in use", or "when not in use".

MouseTracker(tm) is another program that helps a user with low vision quickly locate the mouse cursor and text caret. This program uses an innovative approach to helping the user locate either the text caret or mouse cursor very quickly.

Joystick Buddy(tm) lets you use off-the-shelf joysticks instead of a mouse when working with Microsoft(r)Windows (the joystick can be purchased separately from, for example, a local computer store). This program has many options including: whether to use the joystick as a relative or absolute pointer, an "Accelerate" option, time before acceleration starts, speed before and after acceleration, automatic startup, and "Sensitivity" of your joystick. You also can decide which functions your joystick buttons are assigned (i.e., left button click, right button click, left button drag, left button double click, right button drag, or display the Settings Dialog Box).

AHF Spanish Dictionary is a dictionary that can be used by either REACH Interface Author(tm) or by SoothSayer Word Prediction(tm). It contains 39,000+ Spanish words (translations for the 11,000 most frequently used English words).

  1. Research on REACH Smart Key Technology is being supported by a Small Business Innovation Research Grants (#1 R43 HD37713-01) awarded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
  2. Opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the view of the National Institutes of Health.
  3. REACH Interface Author, Smart Key Technology, and SoothSayer Word Prediction are trademarks or registered trademarks of Applied Human Factors, Inc.
  4. REACH Interface Author was initially supported by a Small Business Innovation Research Grant (#2 R44 HD28864-02) from 1992-95 awarded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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