Dasher

Researching the fastest means of data input

 

I am experimenting with the beta-test version of something called Dasher 5.0 – http://www.inference.org.uk/dasher/ which is an amazing open-source program for text input invented at Cambridge University by David Mackay, and recently developed further by a Google engineer with MND called Ada Majorek. It is the fastest way of inputting with your eyes (or mouse) and is far faster than using eye-tracking technology to painstakingly select one key at a time on a QWERTY keyboard layout on a screen. Skilled practitioners can reach 30 wpm with Dasher – which is as fast as normal handwriting. So, while I have time, I need to practice regularly so as to master the technique.

Dasher is unlike any other interface. It’s a predictive onscreen keyboard that uses what’s called a Zooming Interface. On the right-hand-side of the screen are a set of letters, roughly the whole alphabet. You point your eyes at where you want to steer and the display zooms into it. As you approach the next letter you want, the system clusters around it the other most likely next letters in the English language, given what you’ve already selected. It’s all very dynamic, and some people claim it makes them feel seasick. I find it amazing – but also a completely new skill to learn.