AI that mimics human typos on a smartphone could improve keyboards

An artificial intelligence that mimics how persons type on a smartphone – including making errors – could result in better on-screen keyboards.

“There are a few choices we make that it seems like the human mind optimises for whenever we type,” says Jussi Jokinen of Aalto University, Finland. “I needed to accomplish the same using software applications, then optimise that and see if its behaviour was similar to humans.”

Jokinen and his colleagues programmed the AI using existing knowledge about human behaviour. The AI includes a number of elements – someone to track its “finger” on the screen, another to look at the screen and decide which keys to press, and a third to proofread and correct any errors.

A “supervisor” decides when to activate these components, and the researchers tasked it with learning how exactly to replicate how persons use smartphone keyboards. “It determined what’s the optimum way to allocate resources and learn how to type,” says Jokinen, who presented the task at the virtual CHI conference this week.

Read more: Voice assistant recordings could reveal what someone close by is typing

The AI’s time taken between keystrokes averaged 399 milliseconds, comparable with the human average of 381ms measured in Jokinen’s previous research. Words typed each and every minute and the number of backspaces used to improve errors – so when in the writing process they were corrected – were also largely similar to those of people.

“An integral innovation in this paper is that the behaviour emerges from the model, as opposed to replicating patterns from a set data set,” says Daniel Buschek of Bayreuth University, Germany. “I am worked up about the opportunities that this brings for simulating user behaviour to quickly test new interface ideas.”

That’s also Jokinen’s goal. “My hope is that designers may use this computational tool to very quickly evaluate ideas they have and basically ask the models, how would users type if indeed they received this keyboard?” He suggests different key layouts could possibly be tested, along with more ergonomically friendly digital keyboards.

More on these topics:

  • artificial intelligence
  • smartphone

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