Home Engineering The dark side of technology
Much effort has gone into information technology; a fairly obvious way to offer help to those with unsteady hands is to use predictive text. Generally this is easier when using a keyboard, as it offers feel and feedback that is often lacking on a touchscreen. Tactile feedback is essential for people with poor manual control. Once again, ageism exists, as the predictive text is designed for the young, by the young. The predictive text on most mobiles is for a language and style that is incompatible with the more mature. If I use it, I realize I am not in the young generation. Predictive text in English needs to be fashioned and marketed to come in alternative predictive patterns that match the styles of different age groups and social patterns. The grammar, vocabulary, and slang of each age group are different.
This is certainly not a difficult technological challenge, as far more complex predictive versions already exist. For example, as briefly mentioned, predictive text in China uses the 26-letter, Latin-based alphabet to write in Pinyin (to make a sound variant of the Mandarin words). The predictive text cuts in after one or two letters to offer on the screen the most likely Chinese word character equivalents from an abbreviated set of the 5,000 main Chinese characters. (More Pinyin is needed for special characters.) The intended correct character is selected, and overall it offers a very fast text-writing route into the Mandarin characters. Indeed, it is generally faster than normal writing. On the receiving mobile, the text message appears in Mandarin. However, once again there is a severe problem with such character recognition on a tiny screen if the viewer is elderly or has poor eyesight.
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