Tecla Access keyboard

The Product/Outcome
Exploitation Plans
Intellectual Property Rights
Technical & Socioeconomic considerations/challenges and impact
Collaborators and Future Work
Success stories


Tecla IME with the navigation keyboard displayed

Tecla IME with the scanning QWERTY keyboard displayed

The Product/Outcome
  1. Title of (final) product/outcome: Tecla Access Keyboard
  2. Developer (AEGIS beneficiary): IDRC
  3. Purpose/main functionality & intended use: The Tecla Access Keyboard application provides scanning onscreen keyboard functionality for mobile devices (currently, Android). It works in conjunction (optionally) with the Tecla Access Shield. The intended uses of the Tecla keyboard is to provide users who lack the upper limb dexterity to hold or touch mobile devices with the ability to operate them remotely via Bluetooth-connected ability switches. Via near field communication and other technologies, Tecla-equipped Android devices may also be used as “universal remote controls” for devices such as door openers. Compared to the state of the art, Tecla is an important advance because “walled garden” systems are intrinsically limited by the assistive technology supplier, who may or may not fix bugs or add functionality such as new features or applications. Tecla's open model, on the other hand, has the potential of enabling access to any Android application that is programmed to be keyboard accessible. See more in D4.6.2a, b, c and D1.4.4 (downloadable from here).
  4. Platforms/Operating Systems/Devices: Android v2.1+
  5. Main innovation and comparison to the State of the Art: This is the first open scanning onscreen keyboard for a mobile device. The key innovations of Tecla Access is the inclusive nature of its access to Android. While other products (e.g. Click2Phone) offers access only to a “walled garden” of applications specifically written for that access product, the Tecla Access Keyboard is designed to provide access to the entire Android OS as unobtrusively as possible. This stems from the principle that AT users should have access to the same functions any other user would have.
  6. Maturity level/Stage: The Tecla Access is fairly mature. It is in Beta, on the Android Market (https://market.android.com/details?id=ca.idi.tekla)
  7. Open Source (Yes/No): Yes
  8. Download/info: https://market.android.com/details?id=ca.idi.tekla
  9. End-user documentation: End user documentation is available from the IDRC (http://scyp.idrc.ocad.ca/projects/tekla/getting-started). Commercial end user training is also available from Komodo OpenLab (http://komodoopenlab.com/store/tecla-accessories/). There is also link to the AEGIS training platform.
  10. Contact details (of the principal developer): Jorge Silva ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )
Exploitation Plans
  1. Uptake by Open Source community:
    • Since when: Since early 2011
    • Where: Google Play Store (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ca.idi.tekla&hl=en)
    • Figures/Downloads: It has 2824 downloads with a rating of 4.5 over 5 (as of 12 September 2012)
    • License: Licensed with: Apache License, GNU GPL v3, MIT / X / Expat License
    • How: Komodo Open Lab (http://komodoopenlab.com/) is commercializing the hardware shield and in also making contributions to the open source software application
    • Potential for later proprietary exploitation/commercial use: There has not been proprietary exploitation of the Tecla application, though a potential premium version (by Komodo Openlab, or another company) is possible in the future
Intellectual Property Rights
  1. Intellectual property rights: None besides open source protection
Technical & Socioeconomic considerations/challenges and impact
  1. Possible market applications – further research: The scanning keyboard can be used to control any Android application, which in turn can control numerous real-world functions via various remote control technologies. Future research may include scanning in place in which selection focus is moved automatically through the interface. Another possibility is using the app as a model for similar scanning functionality on other devices such as TV set-top boxes, point-of-sale terminals, etc
  2. Marketability: While free, Tecla Access could already be considered “for sale” on the Android Market (with over 1500 downloads). However, we anticipate continuous development of its feature set into the foreseeable future
  3. Deployment (so far or near future):
  4. Expected impact: We already have early indications of the expected impact, as the Tecla Access Keyboard has been well received, obtaining a 4.5 out of 5 rating on the Google Play Store (with 27 reviews). This has allowed our application to become a point of reference for both mainstream and assistive applications when it comes to considering the needs of people with mobility impairments. Various interface (hardware) and app (software) developers have requested their products be supported by the Tecla Access Keyboard. Mainstream applications such as the social networking tool Hootsuite have also demonstrated interest in supporting compatibility with the Tecla Access Keyboard. These outcomes have prompted the development of code libraries that facilitate the implementation of the alternative input compatibility that 3rd-party developers have been requesting. Furthermore, although the economic impact of the Tecla Access Keyboard is hard to estimate, the application has changed the approach to AT evaluation and acquisition in this area by making it possible for clinicians and users to download and evaluate the application, determining its suitability for their goals, without any monetary investment.
    In addition, we have been in contact with Google about the Tecla project for over two years, including receiving an invitation to appear at the Google IO conference. At that conference, Google introduced A new “accessibility focus” API functionality for Jelly Bean (v.4.1) that will enable Tecla to more reliably access the full Android user interface (http://developer.android.com/about/versions/jelly-bean.html ).
  5. Customers: End-users with upper limb impairments, schools, rehabilitation centres, workplaces interested in staff accommodation, etc
  6. "Go-to-market approach": Tecla is already “for sale” internationally on the Google Play Store and the supporting hardware shield is also sold internationally by Komodo OpenLab (http://komodoopenlab.com/store/)
  7. Commercialisation barriers:
    • A lack of understanding of the experience, needs and preferences of people with mobility impairments, particularly switch users.
    • Accessibility advocates tend to focus on non-visual access innovations, often overlooking new developments in other accessibility areas.
    • Users and clinicians are generally skeptical of 'free' solutions as they are used to paying hefty prices relatively high prices.
    • Users and clinicians prefer the predictability and consistency of iOS devices over the fragmented and uncertain nature of Android-based solutions. Even though no equivalent end-to-end alternative input solution exists on iOS, some are thus likely to prefer 'waiting' for equivalent functionality on iOS, rather than committing to using or recommending an Android-based solution.
    • The base of users requiring scanning is fairly small overall. Other onscreen keyboards have much larger market shares (even 100% in the case of iPhone or Blackberry's build-in input methods) and they could easily replicate the scanning features of Tecla.
    Tecla has been demonstrated at the m-enabling Summit in Washington DC, USA and at the 2012 Government Conference on Disability in Ottawa, Canada. Additional Canadian dissemination events are tentatively planned for 2012 and 2013. IDRC is already disseminating AEGIS deliverables as part of its regular operations and will continue to do so. Highlights include:
    • Dissemination via AEGIS Project (Ontario) website (http://aegis.idrc.ocad.ca/)
    • Dissemination at events organized at the IDRC, such as Accessibility Camp Toronto (http://www.accessibilitycampto.org/)
    • Dissemination during various tours of the IDRC by University, Government and Industry groups.
    • Dissemination as part of the OCAD Masters of Inclusive Design program (http://idrc.ocad.ca/index.php/workshops-aamp-trainings/masters-program) Google IO - Presenting Tecla Access at the Google IO “Sandbox” https://developers.google.com/events/io/sandbox (by Google invitation) (J. Silva, 27-29 June 2012, )
    • The Tecla Access application is being actively disseminated by the IDRC and also Komodo OpenLab (http://komodoopenlab.com/tecla/ )
    • IDRC is also in the process of applying for Tecla to Vodafone AppSelect store. Further commercialization may include a premium version, but this is not being pursued at this point.
Collaborators & Future Work
  1. Collaborations: IDRC is collaborating with the Cambridge University AEGIS partner to enable easy switching between the Tecla application for navigation and Dasher for text entry. IDRC also talks with RIM about possibilities for a BlackBerry version.
  2. Further research and development steps-future collaboration: Development will certainly continue. After AEGIS, a Morse code feature was made available as well as word prediction and improved error recovery. Several months after that, the first version making use of the new Accessibility Focus API in Android v4.1 (Jelly Bean) was released.
Success stories
  • The Tecla keyboard is already quite marketable. Click2phone and other systems sell for hundreds of dollars. The Tecla Shield (a Bluetooth unit that is built to communicate with the keyboard) is already being commercialized by Komodo Openlab (http://komodoopenlab.com/).
  • While free, Tecla Access could already be considered “for sale” on Google Play (with over 2800 downloads). However, we anticipate continuous development of its feature set into the foreseeable future. We already have early indications of the expected impact, as the Tecla Access Keyboard has been well received, obtaining a 4.5 out of 5 rating on Google Play. This has allowed our application to become a point of reference for both mainstream and assistive applications when it comes to considering the needs of people with mobility impairments. Various interface (hardware) and app (software) developers have requested their products be supported by the Tecla Access Keyboard. Mainstream applications such as the social networking tool Hootsuite have also demonstrated interest in supporting compatibility with the Tecla Access Keyboard. These outcomes have prompted the development of code libraries that facilitate the implementation of the alternative input compatibility that 3rd-party developers have been requesting. Furthermore, although the economic impact of the Tecla Access Keyboard is hard to estimate, the application has changed the approach to AT evaluation and acquisition in this area by making it possible for clinicians and users to download and evaluate the application, determining its suitability for their goals, without any monetary investment.
FAQ

Q: How do you install and activate the application?
A: Unlike most other applications, the Tecla Access App does not have a launcher (i.e., a small icon on the App drawer). Instead, you have to activate, select and configure it through the Android settings:

  1. To activate the Tecla Access App, go to Settings > Language & Keyboard and check the box beside Tecla keyboard.
  2. A pop-up window will appear warning you about the sensitive nature of an input method and prompting you to confirm whether you still want to activate it. Read and accept the prompt.
  3. Once the Tecla keyboard is active, the next step is to select it as your input method. In order to do that, go to any text input box (hint: finding a search box is probably the easiest) and long-press (press and hold) on it.
  4. Select the Input method entry in the pop-up window that appears. Then select Tecla keyboard from the list on the second pop-up window.
  5. Finally, you can configure the Tecla Access App by going to Settings > Language & keyboards > Tecla keyboard settings.

Q: Is an external Tecla Shield required?
A: The shield is only required if you need (or prefer) to use switches such as a power wheelchair controller or ability switch buttons to control your smart phone.

Q: How do you bind the application with a Tecla Access Shield?
A: Connecting a Tecla Access Shield to the Android App may be a bit tricky, but it only needs to be done once. The first thing you need to do is to pair the Shield with the handset:

  1. Go to Settings > Wireless & networks > Bluetooth Settings > Scan for devices.
  2. If the Shield is on, you should see it appear in the Bluetooth devices list.
  3. Select the Shield to pair it with the phone, the Shield will appear as FireFly-XXXX or TeklaShieldP2-XXXX, where XXXX is a random sequence of characters.
  4. The phone will request a passkey or passcode. Enter 1234.
  5. The Shield should now be paired.

Q: If it isn't the first time you bind a Tecla Access Shield, do you have to redo the above process?
A: The process above only has to be done once for every Android device that you wish to connect the Shield to. Once paired, you can go to Settings > Language & Keyboard > Tecla keyboard settings and select Connect to Tecla Shield. After a few moments, the Shield should connect automatically and show you the navigation keyboard.