Department of Computer Science

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Text-entry for the blind and visually-impaired

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tap hardThe points over the keyboard show the input from the user from the first tap location (red) to the last tap (blue). The user was entering "this will be hard". A simple baseline decoding using the closest key and a long-span character language model resulted in the recognition "thud dunnve gatc".

Touchscreen mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad have changed the way people communication and access information while on the go. A crucial task on such devices is the entry of text. But without visual or tactile feedback, such text entry tasks are problematic for the world’s many blind and visually-impaired users.  Existing solutions such as the iPhone’s VoiceOver feature are slow with entry rates below six words-per-minute.  Other faster input techniques require knowledge of Braille and chorded input via multiple fingers simultaneously.

Luckily, assistant professor Keith Vertanen and Montana Tech computer science student Haythem Memmi are on the case.  They recently finished a pilot study in which they collected data of users entering text on an iPod touch both while sighted and while blindfolded.  Using this data, they are investigating several recognition-based approaches that attempt to decode the noisy input from the blindfolded users. Their work appear on the front page of the Montana Standard.

So far results are encouraging. Combining a variety of probabilistic techniques, substantial error reductions have been realized compared to baseline. But there is still plenty of work left to do.  The error rates need further reduction and an error correction interface need to be added. Additionally, the recognition is currently being done offline on a desktop and takes several minutes per sentence. The latest findings from this project will be presented at Techxpo on May 2nd.

 

Haythem Memmi Prepares for Grad School

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Haythem at Monte Carlo Methods In Artificial Intelligence workshop.

Haythem Memmi, a recent transfer student from Tunisia, has stayed busy with classes and undergraduate research at Montana Tech since his arrival 7 months ago. He has taken nine computer science classes, started a research project with Dr. Vertanen, attended a Monte Carlo Methods In Artificial Intelligence workshop, and been accepted at a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at Texas State University.

Over his spring break, Haythem received an all expenses paid trip to Oregon State University to attend a Monte Carlo Methods In Artificial Intelligence short course . He was one of twenty students accepted into the course from over 200 applicants. Haythem greatly enjoyed learning about Monte Carlo methods while working with other students from across the country.  The picture shows Haythem (center) at the workshop.

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Zoot Enterprises Renews REAL Scholarship Support

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zoot logoZoot Enterprises of Bozeman renewed its corporate sponsorship of our Ready to Earn And Learn (REAL) scholarship program for 2013. This unique scholarship program provides prospective students with a better understanding of computer science (CS) and software engineering (SE). By completing the online modules, students learn about the type of work computer scientists and software engineers are involved with and the jobs available to them. In addition, students also earn up to a $1200 scholarship credit toward a CS or SE degree at Montana Tech.

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Dr. Van Dyne Attends "Performatics" Workshop

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Michele Van Dyne of the Computer Science Department attended a two-day workshop at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell in January. The workshop was titled “Performamatics”, and the topic was one of teaching computational constructs with the use of music. The workshop was set up for attendance in interdisciplinary pairs, so Nathan Fortier, a Montana Tech Software Engineering graduate and musician, attended with Dr. Van Dyne. Nathan is currently a graduate student in computer science at MSU. The trip was paid for by an NSF grant which the workshop presenters received.

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