2003 Conference Proceedings

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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
Website: http://www.ahf-net.com 
Email: sales@ahf-net.com

Overview of a New Approach to Assisted Typing

Applied Human Factors, Inc. (AHF) conducts research and develops software in the area of custom user interfaces and assistive technology. In this paper, AHF's latest assistive software programs are described and relevant research findings presented. In 1999, AHF announced "Smart Key Technology" (Patent Pending). Smart Keys has been tested and found to improve typing rate when using a scanning keyboard [mean increase in typing rate = 41.9% (N=48)]. Currently, AHF is developing "Super Smart Key Technology" (Patent Pending). This new technology will be demonstrated during this paper session. Also, the results of a controlled experimental evaluation of this new approach will be presented.

Super Smart Keys is the next major advance in assisted typing and communication. Regular Smart Keys helps identify the letters most likely follow the letters already typed. This is done by removing unlikely keys, graying them out, changing their color, etc., (options available to the user). Super Smart Keys goes even further to help the user identify and select the desired word(s). Super Smart Keys is undergoing an experimental evaluation in which typing performance is measured under both scanning input mode and point-and-click input mode and when using Super Smart Keys or a control condition (i.e., traditional standard counterpart). During this paper presentation, data from this evaluation will be reported.

Both Smart Keys and Super Smart Keys are add-ons for AHF's REACH Interface Author(tm) (REACH), an extremely powerful and flexible on-screen keyboard authoring system. It includes word prediction, speech augmentation, a training "Tour", assessment battery, windows management features, many scanning keyboard options, "macro" keyboards, many speech options, keyboard author for modifying the more than 240 keyboards that come with REACH or creating new keyboards, and numerous other assistive technology tools. REACH as well as all programs listed below run in Windows(r)98, (r)Me, (r)NT, (r)2000, and (r)XP. Following is a list of some of the new REACH features available in the current REACH Version 3.0.

Other AHF Products

As time permits, other AHF products will be demonstrated. Free demonstration copies are available for downloading on the AHF website http://www.ahf-net.com or on a free CD.

SoothSayer Word Prediction(tm) is a word completion program with many features: speak letters, words, sentences, and highlighted text; 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.

REACH Tablet(tm) combines the power and flexibility of REACH software with the portability of the Fujitsu Stylistic 3500 Tablet Computer. This device is small but usable (11" by 8.5" by 1.1"), portable (weighs 3.2 lbs. and can be clamped to a wheel chair), and powerful (500 MHz, 256MB, Windows2000, sound/speaker, IR port, Modem, and 15GB Hard Drive). A variety of accessories are available.

SoothSayer Scan Plus(tm) is a software bundle that combines SoothSayer Word Prediction(tm) and ScanBuddy(tm). This is perfect for users who want to increase their typing speed and accuracy when using a hardware keyboard (i.e., with SoothSayer(tm)) while minimizing use of a mouse (i.e., with 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."

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

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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