A mobile app designed to help users predict the word you're typing in is not really a new idea. However, one app - Swiftkey - does it a little differently and given the occasion of the Queen's diamond jubilee weekend, it makes interesting reading. The programme uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to predict and/or correct words, as they are being typed, to the Queen's English!
"One of the core strengths of the technology is that we are able to take any kind of text and build what we call a language module. It solves a probabilistic problem which is 'what is the person most likely to say next'?" explained Dr Ben Medlock, co-founder of SwiftKey, in a Reuters report.
Apparently the application is structured using aspects of the Queen's English. Therefore, if the user writes "it's", the programme changes it to "it is". In addition, since the Queen has a tendency to maintain a positive tone in communications, words echoing the same sentiment are used. Finally, there is also the opportunity to learn the Queen's English, from historical texts and also from emails, texts and/or social media data.
"The Queen's language reveals that she has a generally optimistic frame of mind and so the words 'confident', 'delighted', 'glad' and 'please' were uttered 125 times more than her famous 'annus horribilis,' which was the phrase that she used in the 1992 Windsor Castle fire," said Medlock, who has a PhD in natural language processing from the University of Cambridge.
The application was developed two years ago, when it was realised the problem with typing on smartphones was the language more than the keyboard (or the lack of it).
"Smartphones were exploding but people were struggling to do what is thought to be the most important thing you can do on a phone, which is to get your thoughts down into it. We realised that the software of the future wasn't just going to sit there as a dumb keyboard based on key strokes. It was going to actively model the way people use language," Medlock added.
With over one million active users for now, SwiftKey is in the process of updating its features and the team working on the software is believed to be working on the facility of typing words without having to constantly tap the "Space" key. The programme should, ideally, learn to understand word boundaries.
According to the Google Play Store stats, the paid version of SwiftKey X Keyboard has been installed between one million and five million times. Finally, the company is planning to utilise the software in multiple sectors.
"The barrier to entry for this kind of software is very high. We had to build this credibility story before we could hit some of the major manufacturers. But now we support around 45 languages, and in the last 5-6 months we've reached a critical mass in terms of momentum, to the point where people are really starting to take us seriously," Medlock told the Guardian.
"If you're a healthcare professional spending 10 minutes writing patient notes on a tablet, and SwiftKey helps you cut that to five minutes, you have more time in front of patients rather than typing notes up," Jon Reynolds, a co-founder of SwiftKey said.
The app is available for all Android-based smartphones and tablets and is priced at approximately £3 and can be downloaded here.