The clever stuff behind SwiftKey’s success

November 11, 2010

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The dust has now settled on our paid launch in September and SwiftKey is already establishing itself as a leading solution to the problem of typing quickly and accurately on the go.

At last month’s DroidCon Android conference in London, I pitched our app at the AppCircus competition and we won. This officially marks the first ‘best app’ award won by SwiftKey and is great news! In my pitch for the app, I explained a bit about our big plans for SwiftKey, and why we’re so excited about the technology behind it. I thought I’d share my thoughts with you.

But first, let me introduce myself. I’m Ben Medlock, TouchType’s Chief Technical Officer. I co-founded the company just over two years ago with Jon Reynolds, our CEO. Together, we set out with the simple goal of making text entry on handheld devices easier and more intuitive.

By using intelligent technology, we were confident we could find a better way to get the thoughts out of your head and on to your phone. Since then, we have gathered a team of exceptional people to help us make that happen, and my job is to ensure our products remain at the cutting edge of innovation in handheld communication.

Getting electronic devices to do intelligent things with human languages is no simple task. In the past, it took teams of programmers and linguists years to build rudimentary systems for performing basic language tasks and these systems were usually frail and unreliable. Recently, people started to wonder if rather than telling a computer exactly what to do, they could build programs that would learn for themselves when shown the right sort of data. We call this “machine learning.”

It turns out that machine learning is a pretty good way to deal with the complexities of human language… the only problem is you need fast computers and LOTS of data. SwiftKey sometimes feels like it’s reading your mind because it’s already read words written by millions of other people, gleaned from a variety of sources including the World Wide Web. Of course, it also learns from your own writing as you use it.

In the next few months, we’ll be making it easier to tailor SwiftKey to the type of look and feel that you want. We also have some great ideas for making the suggestion buttons easier to use, and we’ll be introducing even more advanced correction mechanisms that don’t just work out when you hit the wrong keys, but also recognize when you miss a letter or spell a word the wrong way.

We are really proud of what we’ve achieved so far, but this is just the beginning of our plans to enhance communication on handhelds. We’re working on new techniques that put our machine learning and artificial intelligence expertise to powerful effect, and will make even the technology in SwiftKey feel like yesterday’s news. Our vision is to design software that really feels like it’s working with you to make writing fun, creative and as fast as you can think.

Happy typing!

Ben

Chief Technical Officer, TouchType

  • Ashim Lamichhane

    being a student of AI, Im simply at an awe knowing what you have achieved. RESPECT