We meet the professor who's latest app has been downloaded an incredible 3.8 million times
We warmly welcome Professor Anirudha Joshi to the Computational Foundry. He joins us from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B), and he will be with us until December as part of a secondment funded by Cherish-DE.
As an expert in Human-Computer Interaction, this sabbatical enables Professor Joshi to further his research into ‘emergent users’. As he explains: “11 years ago there were 1.1 billion users of the internet, now there are 3.9 billion users. Many of these 2.8 billion new users are in developing countries such as India and parts of Africa, and they mostly use only mobile phones to access the internet.”
An example of his work in this field is an app that he and his team have created, which has been downloaded an incredible 3.8 million times since it was developed. Called Swarachakra, or Vowel Wheel, the app is a keyboard that can be used on mobile devices to type 12 Indian languages.
The app is so popular as it makes typing Indian languages - where you need to input at least 65 characters and several hundred conjuncts - much easier. The innovative design of Swarachakra has a vowel wheel around each consonant key, and dynamic layouts for conjuncts, making the typing process much more intuitive.
He explains: “Unlike in more developed countries like the US or Europe, where users own several devices, emergent users only have one device - the mobile phone, so the bulk of words are typed on a small screen with a small keyboard. We know that typing long texts in English and Welsh is much easier on a laptop than on a phone – the phone shows so little of our text at a time. But if you don’t have a laptop, what can you do? With Swarachakra, if you have two mobile devices, you can pair them. One screen acts as a (large) keyboard and the other shows a screenful of the text, thus letting you do more with what you have.”
Professor Joshi is professor in the interaction design stream in the Industrial Design Centre, IIT-B. He is involved in designing interactive products for users in developing economies, particularly in rural India. During his sabbatical he hopes to collaborate with as many researchers and academics as possible, across all disciplines, to further his work in this field.
As he comments: “I am excited to be here at the Computational Foundry; I am truly inspired by the work that is done here. I have worked with Professor Matt Jones and his team several times, in Mumbai, Bangalore and Cape Town, involving emergent users in designing futuristic products that are useful and relevant for them. For example, the splitting of the Swarachakra app across devices was enabled by the research done by the team here. So much more can be achieved through collaboration in this way. ”
The Computational Foundry will be also hosting three undergraduate students from IIT-B this semester as part of Swansea University’s exchange scheme. There is also potential to send students from the Computational Foundry to Mumbai in return, as part of an enriching and inspiring partnership between the two leading academic institutions.
- Wednesday 17 October 2018 17.16 BST
- Thursday 18 October 2018 13.45 BST
- Julia Harrison