Onscreen Keyboards

To help special education teachers, you can demonstrate this free tool that they may appreciate. Dasher is a free alternative to onscreen keyboards. It is much faster than other onscreen keyboards and includes word prediction and text to speech.

The eyetracker, which controls the mouse location. The user simply looks at the desired string. The eyetracker deduces where on the screen the user looks.

Dasher is a zooming interface. You point where you want to go, and the display zooms in wherever you point. The world into which you are zooming is painted with letters, so that any point you zoom in on corresponds to a piece of text. The more you zoom in, the longer the piece of text you have written. You choose what you write by choosing where to zoom.

The image above is the desktop of a user writing the word "hello." Dasher is driven by natural continuous pointing gestures. Dasher is a text-entry system wherever a full-size keyboard cannot be used such as:

  • when operating a computer one-handed, by joystick, touchscreen, trackball, or mouse;
  • when operating a computer with zero hands (i.e., by head-mouse or by eyetracker);
  • on a palmtop computer;
  • on a wearable computer.

Just imagine walking into a library and looking for a book. When you open Dasher it is as if you are searching for a word. First you notice all the letters alphabetized on either side. Then the space available for each letter on the desktop corresponds to the probability of using that letter. There is more space for 'a' and 'e' than 'x.' The eye-tracking version of Dasher allows an experienced user to write text as fast as normal handwriting - 29 words per minute; using a mouse, experienced users can write at 39 words per minute. Dasher can be used to write efficiently in any language. There are many other free solutions, if you want to avoid paying for specialized hardware. Here are a few links:

Klick-n-Type Virtual Keyboard
Point-n-Click Virtual Mouse
E-triloquist® Speech software

Submited By: Bill Weirsma, past president
Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning
Board Liaison to Special Interest Groups
Delton, Michigan

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