Swiftkey looking beyond the keyboard
Swiftkey, creator of the popular Android keyboard, has told Pocket-lint it wants to create a language profile for users that would allow them to use the same settings across a range of different devices with which they interact.
"What we are really interested in is building a consistent experience across different devices," Ben Medlock, the company's CTO, told us over breakfast.
"We focused on phones first and then tablets, because the need is so obvious there, but what we are moving towards is an offering that will capture your language profile that can then be used across different devices that you interact with."
The plan, Medlock explains while sipping a coffee, it to be able to offer users a single profile that works across multiple devices - be it using your phone, your desktop, or even your voice.
"This is something we are building into the infrastructure at the moment. It’s not just about creating a desktop version of our software but a system that allows you to enter text correctly over a number of devices."
Likening the experience to Spotify, the online music service that allows you to log in to access your music on several different devices, Medlock says he aims to create a similar scenario with Swiftkey:
"The idea is to create a language profile that is stored in the cloud and summarises how you speak and communicate," he says.
"It doesn’t just have to be a keyboard, though, it could be how you interact with voice in your car, it could be how you communicate to your TV or your console, and it could even be handwriting. It’s about something much more powerful than just powering a keyboard."
Key to doing this is the underlining technology the company has developed to improve language input on a keyboard, rather than just working out when you might have misspelt something on your phone because you've pressed the wrong combination of keys.
Swiftkey isn't just talking about the profile that helps you correct the same mistakes you make day in, day out on a different device, but allowing that profile to actively identify which device you are using, where you are, and even who you are talking to:
"We have a roadmap for text input. Just looking at the keyboard product, we are working at being able to determine who you are texting and know that your language changes. Whether that is your mum or your boss," says Medlock.
"Time, location, who you are contacting, the client you are using, be it Facebook or Gmail, anything that gives us a glimpse of what you are doing can help us improve the experience. We’ve structured the system to be able to slot in these evidences and adapt accordingly.
"We’ve taken an approach that allows us to continue to enhance and improve text input. The perfect software is the software that perfectly understands how you communicate and can guess what you are going to say 100 per cent of the time. We are a very clear market leader in that, but there is always a long way to go, there are always more improvements to make."
So when is all this going to happen? Sooner than you think it seems. The company, based in Cambridge, has seen massive growth since its inception a couple of years ago, and is constantly winning awards for its innovation, the latest of which was a GMSA award at Mobile World Congress. That's alerted plenty of potential customers and kept Medlock's phone ringing constantly since.
"We have been inundated with requests from lots of companies, not just mobile phone makers," Medlock tells Pocket-lint. "We are working on people using different styles of interface for different environments. Maybe it is looking at handwriting, or when you are typing on a phone, or a tablet - whatever it is, we see ourselves expanding our portfolio of products to provide this whole range of services."
Medlock confirms to Pocket-lint that that includes a stylus version of the software to be used on devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note and the HTC Flyer, among other things.
"We really feel there is a potential for using language technology in a wider range of settings," Medlock adds. "This is just the start. We are really looking at possibilities outside of just text entry to where we can apply this technology."