SwiftKey Symbols app helps non-verbal kids communicate

SwiftKey has launched a new Android app designed for non-verbal special needs kids. The app is called SwiftKey Symbols, and as its name suggests, the app uses symbols to help kids communicate using the company's core personalization and prediction tech. With that, the system learns about the user and moves quickly to pick out symbols the child might want next, making it — according to the company — faster than other similar assistive apps on the market.

Autistic and otherwise special needs kids who are non-verbal often have trouble expressing their thoughts to others. Assistive communication tools, such as visual boards, aim to help with that, but they're slow and cumbersome and don't always get the point across adequately. To help with this matter, some of SwiftKey's staff came up with the idea for Symbols.

A trip to a school for kids with learning difficulties and special needs revealed that many assistive communication tools are too slow for many kids. Speed seems to be one of Symbols' biggest features, using machine learning to offer up symbols kids will (probably) want next.

The screenshot above shows the beta's current interface — it works by letting kids form sentences using symbols for things like activities, weather, objects, and places. These symbols were drawn by a SwiftKey worker.

One of the more unique features is SwiftKey Symbols' inclusion of the current time as part of its predictions, as well as the day of the week. Symbols previously selected on certain days and at certain times will be offered up during those times again in the future, expediting one's ability to communicate things that might occur frequently — questions about a scheduled activity, perhaps.

Finally, users are also able to add their own images, such as a picture of their own home and school, and their own categories for those symbols. Caregivers can record sentences for the child to playback for others as well.

SwiftKey Symbols requires Android 4.4 or higher to run, and is available now through the Google Play Store.

SOURCE: SwiftKey Blog