ECTkeyboard (EyeComTec Keyboard) is a program with a text matrix that allows individuals with limited motor skills to type text. The program works with eye tracking applications (ECTtracker and analogues), allowing to select characters through blinking, muscle contractions or other actions. ECTkeyboard has a flexible interface configuration, language input and character selecting delays. Saves all settings in files for subsequent work.
ECTkeyboard is a program included in a set of assistive applications developed by the EyeComTec Company (www.eyecomtec.com). ECTkeyboard is a virtual keyboard (symbol matrix) where the user can select letters, numbers or even commands by pressing a button or a pedal. This application can also be used in conjunction with eye-tracking devices, allowing users to select a symbol from a matrix by changing their sight direction.
The main idea of ECTkeyboard is to provide paralyzed patients and people with significant motor activity problems with a solution and a possibility to communicate.
The application is totally portable and doesn't require installation, allowing users to launch it from any external storage device. An unlimited amount of user profiles, as well as the possibility to switch them "on the fly" allows the use of ECTkeyboard in various medical and rehabilitation centers. This application is incredibly convenient to use. Thus, a patient can freely use it in just a couple of minutes after the very first launch.
Users can change the interface layout of the program in order to create a convenient atmosphere. The user can change the number of rows and columns in the matrix of symbols, change the cell order, as well as change colors and various fonts of all the elements of the application. It's possible to select the size of the font and set a high contrast color scheme, which makes this application comfortable and easy for visually impaired patients. Users can also enable sound confirmation of all highlighted letters or symbols.
Another great and unique feature of ECTkeyboard is the variable speed of matrix symbol iteration. During the first period, when the user is just starting to get used to the application, a low speed of iteration allows them to understand the interface and remember all letter and symbol positions. A high speed can be useful for those who already know the application and can use it for fast text typing.
This application includes a frequently used word vocabulary, which allows users to increase the speed of typing. Words that contain a high number of symbols can be simply chosen from a list, instead of typing them letter by letter. The user can always add new words to the vocabulary, e.g. names, locations and so on.
ECTkeyboard can also be used by people without any physical problems. The application is a simple and convenient virtual keyboard, one which can easily send any text to a third party application or immediately save it as a text file.
The application is really flexible and has a lot of settings, i.e. users can change more than 140 parameters: colors and fonts of the interface, all form positions, the speed of selection and de-selection of symbols, progress bar size and position, and many others. All the mentioned features allow users to perform optimal ECTkeyboard setting procedures and create a perfect environment for each user.
The main interface of the program is shown in fig. 1.
The following elements are shown in the image:
- The main window of the application – the virtual keyboard with letters, numbers, symbols, cursor movement arrows and some additional commands.
- The text output window, which contains the typed text. ECTkeyboard allows users to type volumetric text at pretty fast speeds.
- A window with a thumbnail of any currently selected symbol. You can select type, size, and color of fonts, as well as background colors in order to create a convenient user experience.
- The quick entry window for fast word selection (predictive typing). When the user types several letters, this window will show all the words that start with those symbols.
Benefits of using ECTkeyboard
ECTkeyboard – is a compact and convenient application that provides an incredibly flexible setup process. It has a lot of advantages in comparison with other applications in the same market field:
- unlimited user profiles supported by fast loading and switching speed. Such an approach allows various users on one personal computer to create unique interface settings and keyboard layouts.
- 10 various data input modes (two of the mentioned modes support external eye-tracking devices). This feature makes ECTkeyboard useful for patients with various physical conditions.
- convenient interface, with the possibility to change symbol order, key size, and other visual parameters.
- special operation modes for visually impaired people or people with distortions of color perception. The application allows users to use its special high-contrast color scheme and huge fonts, as well as the window with a selected letter or symbol thumbnail. Furthermore, ECTkeyboard can be used by totally blind patients, due to a special feature that confirms all letters with a synthesized voice.
- PROspecial graphical icons with letters or numbers (or instead of them) can be great for those patients who don't speak localization languages or just can't read.
- the fast entry mode with the vocabulary of frequently used words allows users to avoid long symbols by symbol typing, increasing the total speed of program operation and text typing.
- possibility to create a vocabulary for names, locations and special words that can't be found in standard vocabularies.
- users can implement special commands, allowing patients to change keyboard layouts, enable/disable sound confirmation, and use various additional options and tools right from the main window of the application without any need to call an assistant to perform the additional setting procedure.
- various localizations support, i.e. users can choose their native language for the interface. Fast entry vocabularies are also available for several languages.
- incredibly flexible setting procedure, i.e. users can change more than 130 parameters, which allow changes to the functionality and the interface of the application in order to create a comfortable atmosphere for each specific user.
- modularity of the application. Users can change colors and fonts for each window, hiding or showing them if necessary.
- possibility to transfer any typed text to any third party application, i.e. text editor, internet browser, chat window, etc.
- typed text can be automatically saved after a predefined period of time.
- small size and real portability of the application, which allows ECTkeyboard to run from any external storage device.
- low technical requirements of computing resources.
Thus, we can say that ECTkeyboard is now one of the most advanced and functional virtual keyboards in the field of assistive technologies.