This week the team at Syntellia launched an update to its iOS app Fleksy, which aims to make predictive typing a breeze for both visually impaired and sighted users. The app, which is available for free to try but has paid upgrades for users who want to share their messages via SMS, email, or social networks, comes from the same creators as touch typing software BlindType, which was acquired by Google in 2010. The avpp uses a text prediction engine to predict the correct word a user is typing, even if every letter is incorrect.
While originally aimed exclusively at visually impaired users, now the founders are targeting both visually impaired and sighted users with the new release, co-founder Ioannis Verdelis said in an interview. “We’ve been providing Fleksy as a typing solution for visually impaired iPhone users,” he said. “A lot of people have been telling us you should try to see what non-blind people think about this, because we think it’s pretty cool.”
The app aims to correct mistyped letters and predict words on touchscreen devices, much like Android apps like Swype, and Apple’s auto correcting feature for iOS. Users can use the keyboard provided within the app, or type in the blank space to enter text in the QWERTY format. As users enter text they can swipe right to add a space, which prompts the app to correct the word if necessary and repeat it audibly. Other gesture controls include swiping left to delete, swiping down for a different word suggestion, and swiping right twice for punctuation.
Since Apple doesn’t allow any default keyboards except for its own, users are required to either send the text from within the app, or copy and paste it. Users can copy text or send text from Fleksy via email, SMS and Twitter if they upgrade to the paid version, which is $4.99. Since the app was designed specifically for the visually impaired, it warns users when they open it that the features can be different than users are used to if they have normal vision. Verdelis said they’ve optimized certain things to the visually impaired audience, for example repeating words audibly after typing them. There’s no way to disable that right now, though Verdelis said they will be releasing several updates to cater to both audiences.
Though the app is only available on iOS for now, Verdelis said they will be launching on Android and other platforms soon, but declined to share an exact date. They also have a software development kit (SDK) available for iOS developers who want to integrate Fleksy into their apps.
Fleksy has to compete with predictive typing apps like Swype and SwiftKey when it launches on Android, though neither of those apps have an explicit focus on helping visually impaired users. Verdelis said that Fleksy uses a variety of inputs to guide their predictive algorithm, so rather than just trying to guess if someone missed a button or not, they combine language analysis with where someone touched the screen. ”All of these technologies normally pay too much attention to the little buttons on the screen,” he said. “Our technology is powerful enough that it can be used if you miss every single letter.”
While Fleksy is Syntellia’s only publicly available product right now, but Verdelis said the company is focusing on projects that use “algorithms and artificial intelligence [to] drive innovation,” and have several projects in the pipeline. They’ve bootstrapped the company to date, though he said they’re closing some external funding this morning. The app will likely find a bigger user base when it debuts for Android, since then it can be used as the default keyboard. This new release gives iPhone users a taste of the technology, but without being integrated into the native keyboard, it might be hard for some users to see the value in upgrading to the paid version.