Visual keyboard developed by TU Delft student

TailType is a universal keyboard suitable for dyslexics, children and the low-literate. Developed by Niké Jenny Bruisma as part of her master’s graduation project, it’s now available as an app.

Bruisma graduated in November 2015 with an MSc in Design for Interaction from the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering. “I’m dyslexic myself, and therefore strongly visually oriented, and that was my inspiration in taking a visual approach to keyboard layout design,” she said. Three prototypes were tested by a group of 25 children, and the use of animal icons was found to be the best method. “From a neurological perspective it is known that natural scene recognition, such as the recognition of animal silhouettes, is way faster than the recognition of letters.” Letters with a similar ’tail shape’ at the end – end shape of their writing path – have been grouped together under one of eight animal icons. For instance:, the ‘o’, ‘b’ and ‘p’ all end in a circle so they have been grouped with the rabbit who has a circular shaped tail. This logical visual grouping makes the letter placement intuitive, and thus easy to learn and remember.

“TailType is truly one of a kind,” said Bruisma. What makes it different to other products on the market is the design strategy. Not only does it use a visual approach to letter grouping rather than a linguistic approach, it also focusses on the typing experience rather than the typing speed. “A huge advantage of taking a visual approach is that the language of visuals and shapes is universal, which makes the keyboard layout language-independent.” The keyboard aims to be suitable for typing in all Latin script languages. A simplification of the interface and the functionalities, with no auto-correct or word prediction, reduce the character search time and effort needed. This also means that no data is gathered about what is typed, ensuring privacy.

“I really wanted people to be able to use TailType, and was very motivated to get it to market,” said Bruisma. She was granted a TU Delft Startup Voucher to bring the concept to fruition. “The money allowed me to hire a developer and actually make it.” The free app is available in the Google Play Store now, and Bruisma aims to make it available in the Apple App Store by the New Year. There are plans to develop the app further, and user feedback to aid improvements is welcomed. Bruisma is looking to raise funds for this purpose. See tailtype.com for more details.

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