The Typesy program is designed to teach you how to train your brain and your ten fingers to automatically and quickly make the muscle movements necessary to accurately hit keys in the proper sequence to form correctly-spelled words. To type, in other words. But what if you don’t have ten fingers – or any fingers? What if you’re in a situation where you can’t get your hands to the keyboard? What happens to your ability to communicate on the computer if you’ve lost the ability to use your hands at all?
Voice-recognition software is attempting to bridge that gap by transcribing the spoken word into text. Other research organizations are looking at using eye movements to control cursors and character selection on the screen. At Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, The Inference Group is working on a project they call Dasher, a pointer-driven text generator that can be used with eye-tracking software that translates eye movements into cursor movements for text selection. According to the result of user studies, this isn’t the fastest way to type, and the top speed so far is generally only around 30wpm. However, for people with limited mobility, this may be the best option for accurate word processing using a computer.
Another group in France at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) is studying how to map eye movements directly into text formation, by tracking the eyes as they “write” out letters. Users move their eyes in patterns that match letters and numbers (making a circle with their eyes for the letter O, for example) and the software picks up those patterns and creates the letters as fast as the user can move their eyes.
These and other innovations related to eye tracking will be discussed at the second annual EyeTrack Australia Conference in November 2013, sponsored by Central Queensland University. With so many people working on projects that look for new ways to use technology to communicate, we’re sure that new developments in typing techniques – with eyes or fingers – are on the horizon.
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