The majority of the Indian population is more comfortable
with communication in regional languages. Even when English
is used, it is often liberally sprinkled with words from an Indian
language for greater effect. This is quite common in direct and
telephonic conversations, and even in written communication,
but not on a computer. This is because, typing Indian languages
on the computer keyboard is complex, and current
schemes for feeding text in Indian languages are not adequately
usable. Many solutions for 'Text Input in Indian Languages'
are based on the currently used QWERTY keyboard designed
for the Roman script.
Indic scripts have a different structure from the Roman ones
and none of the above commercially available keyboards are usable by a
majority of Indian people.
As a solution to this problem, Prof. Anirudha Joshi and his team at
the Industrial Design Centre through a Media Lab
Asia Project have worked on designing alternative mechanisms for text
input in Devnagari. Amongst several alternatives,
a keyboard called Key-Lekh was developed with a goal to enable persons
familiar with Devnagari to use it without
instructions. For example, on a ticket vending machine at a railway station,
literate passengers should be able to 'walk
up and use' this keyboard to type their name, destination and other details
to buy train tickets. The underlying concept
of the design of Key-Lekh is based on the 'Varnamala'-the well-structured
Indian alphabetic system. Studies on a prototype
have proven that the Key-Lekh is an efficient 'walk-up-and- use' keyboard,
and can also work as a desktop keyboard.
The prototype was subjected to extensive tests by users in various age-groups
through road shows and competitions
held, on the campus. The feedback suggested that Key-Lekh is the easiest-to
learn keyboard yet developed for Indian
scripts. Key-Lekh's design is being further
improved to make it more robust and useful
as a commercial product.
Indian patent application no. 720/MUM/2003 Patent grant no. 213525
Inventors: A Joshi and A Rathod