2006 Conference General Sessions

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James Schroeder
Applied Human Factors, Inc.
P.O. Box 228
Helotes TX 78023
Day Phone: 210 408-0098
Fax: 210 408-0097
Email: sales@ahf-net.com

Four new products from AHF will be demonstrated and the underlying research support presented. Announcements will be made of other exciting products currently being developed.

Applied Human Factors, Inc. (AHF) conducts research and develops products in the area of assistive technology. In this paper, four such products will be demonstrated and the underlying research support will be presented 1,2.  In addition, AHF will announce new research findings and corresponding products under development.  

REACH Interface Author™ Version 4. REACH™ is an on-screen keyboard with more than 400 keyboards, an authoring system, built-in augmentative communication and word prediction, and a host of other tools for computer access. The new version of REACH™ has many exciting and innovative features and provides a platform for several exciting new add-ons. The new features to be demonstrated include Associated Dictionaries™ (load a keyboard and start typing – it automatically will only look in those dictionaries that you have associated to that keyboard); ClickAssist™ ("define" your own click by setting how long the switch should be closed to qualify as a click, how long after the click REACH™ should wait before allowing another, whether you want  the screen location when the switch was closed or when it was released to be used as the site of the mouse click, etc.); Graduated Main Dictionary™ (choose your vocabulary level from one of four levels ranging from core [7,800 words] to advanced [43,000] words); a greatly enhanced speech augmentation system (120+ dedicated keyboards) with an option to add on the classic Mayer-Johnson™ Picture Communication Symbols™ (all the speech keyboards automatically fill with pictures).


The potential add-ons available for REACH™ Version 4 include two designed to accelerate typing speed and reduce work (Smart Keys™ and Smart Lists™ described below) and one targeted to help persons with spelling disabilities spell more accurately (REACH Sound-It-Out Phonetic Keyboard™ also described below).

REACH with Smart Keys

Smart Keys™ originally was designed to assist a physically disabled computer type faster and more accurately. When the user types the first letter in a word, Smart Keys searches the dictionary and alters the keyboard to reflect which letters are likely. For example, if the user types the "L" in "lucky," most of the consonant keys are removed leaving only those letters (most of the vowels) that follow "L" in the currently loaded dictionary(ies). In a controlled experiment, a 41% increase in typing rate was found when subjects used scanning input.


In subsequent research/development, this approach was extended to the learning-disabled population, resulting in the REACH Sound-It-Out Phonetic Keyboard™.

REACH Sound-It-Out Phonetic Keyboard™ (Patent Pending). Based on Smart Keys™, this product represents an innovative approach to typing in which a user "types" using sounds instead of letters. In the children's phonetic keyboard, each key face has a letter label representative of that sound (e.g., "B" for the "bih" sound) and a picture of an object that begins with that sound (e.g., picture of a bus for the "bih" sound). When the user points at this "B" key, the following recording is played "bih–bus" to prompt the user that this key represents the sound of the letter "B."  

As sounds are selected, a list fills with candidate words that phonetically match the sequence already input and Smart Keys™ removes those sounds which do not follow that phonetic pattern. When the user points at any word offered, it is read aloud.  To type the word, the user clicks on it.  In an experimental evaluation, this novel approach to typing was found to increase spelling accuracy in spelling-disabled children by 150%(n=14) and adults by 122%(n=10).

REACH with Smart Lists™ (Patent Pending)

With Smart Lists™, the user starts by typing the first letter(s) on a standard on-screen keyboard but is quickly moved to a set of candidate options presented in list format presented at the site of the last key selected. For example, if the user selects "Y," the letter "Y" is typed and the "Y" key then enlarges to present a list of candidates (Yo..., Ye..., Ya..., and Yield). From that point on, the user will type the entire word by selecting items from lists. When scanning, the estimated number of clicks required is reduced by more than 50% and estimated typing rate ranges from 16% (for 2-letter words), to 72% (for 5-letter words), to 299% (for 12-letter words).

Exciting Research Announcements from AHF. At the 2006 CSUN Conference, AHF will have exciting new announcements about innovative new products currently under development and their underlying research support.

1. Research on REACH, Smart Keys, and Smart Lists was supported by a Small Business Innovation Research Grants (#1 R43 HD37713-01 and #2 R44 HD28864-02) 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.

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