Indian Language Keyboard App with 12 Languages: IIT Bombay

Industrial Design Centre (IDC) of IIT Bombay designed Swarachakra which is a free Indian Language Keyboard App with 12 Languages for Android Mobile Phones. The App is integrated with Better Together framework. It will be lauched on 20th March 2017 Monday at the Microsoft Research in Bangalore. There have been 18 lakh downloads of the new keyboard already.

The idea took shape during the desktop computer era, when the team had to replace the standard Qwerty keyboard with a physical keyboard suited for Indian scripts. And based on the Hindu report, the 'Better Together' framework was developed as part of a project titled, 'Re-shaping the Expected Future' initiated by Future Interaction Technology Lab in Swansea University, UK, and funded by European organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Indian Language Keyboard App is available in 12 Indian languages which allow the user to run an application on multiple phones at the same time. Users will be able to type on one phone with the help of Swarachakra keyboard and see the conversation on the second phone. It is available in Hindi, Marathi, Konkani, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Oriya, Bengali, Assamese, Punjabi and Gujarati.

Prof Anirudha Joshi, IDC School of Design led the six-member IIT-B team. He said that Text inputs in Indian languages were fairly weak. On Wikipedia, for instance, there is very little material in Indian languages. It's a symptom of the larger problem. It's not true of East Asia or even Africa, though. The reason is not politics or social phenomena. It's to do with the structure of scripts we use. He further explained that Indian languages fall into the Abugida category - a family of script mainly in use in the Indian sub-continent, and some parts of Africa and Canada.

He also said that the other categories are the alphabet - Greek, Latin and so on; the Abjad - Persian or Urdu, in use in West Asia and North Africa; and the info graphic script in Japan, China and Korea. The Abugida has a unique script structure, and text input mechanisms need to take that into account

Development of Swarachakra

The professor said the main story was when Android phones became available, when the team had to replace the standard Qwerty keyboard with a physical keyboard suited for Indian scripts. We did a few experiments, and came up with Swarachakra. The 'chakra' appears with consonant options next to a word. The 'dynamic' keyboard, which shows how different letters look post-typing, is designed keeping the structure of Indian scripts in mind, explained Prof. Joshi.

It always happens that when one types a message on Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, Hike or Viber, the chat is seen only on half of the screen and the other half is covered by the keyboard. Swarachakra will eliminate this problem. Many homes in India have more than one smart phone. Also, messages are getting longer. This allows you to read the whole message you are composing.

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