SwiftKey announced on its blog today that its service was a part of the communication system used by Stephen Hawking. The team at SwiftKey collaborated with Intel in building a bespoke system that allowed the scientist to communicate better.
In the blog post, SwiftKey stated:
Professor Hawking has motor neurone disease and as such is only able to communicate by using a small sensor which is activated by a muscle in his cheek. He uses this sensor to 'type' characters and numbers on his keyboard. SwiftKey's technology has been integrated into his current system so that it can accurately predict whole words, rather than just characters. That means that the time and effort Professor Hawking requires to type is significantly reduced, allowing for a much easier, speedier experience for him.
SwiftKey also noted that it built a unique language model for Hawking based on his extensive works that is tailored to provide contextually relevant words. The aim with the model created for Hawking was to minimize typos so that the scientist can "write and speak with greater ease for longer periods."
While smartphone users are often typing short messages, tweets, and e-mails, Professor Hawking uses his system not just for conversation, but to write entire books and lectures. With our integration into Intel's system, when Professor Hawking opens such a document, our technology specializes its language models to the document at hand, to ensuring an even easier writing experience.
Professor Hawking's keyboard is divided into two sections made up of letters and of digits and punctuation. He uses his sensor to select the particular section he'd like to use which means the time and effort of each character is subsequently very high.
With SwiftKey's technology a single movement detected by the sensor can predict a whole next word, rather than just the next character, resulting in a much improved, faster typing experience.
SwiftKey also increased the number of next-word possibilities to make it easier for Hawking to write:
In contrast to SwiftKey's consumer apps, which offer three predictions, for Professor Hawking there are always ten possible predictions to choose from. The increased number is to allow for a greater number of potential next-word possibilities.
SwiftKey mentioned that its language model "roughly doubled Professor Hawking's speech rate, and is continuing to learn and adapt."