What is SwiftKey Symbols & how does it work?

Learn a bit more about SwiftKey's assistive app for good. 

1 - What is SwiftKey Symbols?

SwiftKey Symbols is a symbol-based assistive communication app for Android.

It learns from you in order to predict the symbol you’re most likely to want next, saving time and helping you to communicate faster and more easily.

It is targeted at (but not limited to) young, non-verbal individuals with special needs.

It started life as a SwiftKey Greenhouse project when a small team of SwiftKey staff, some with experience with autism in their families, came up with the idea of developing an assistive app powered by SwiftKey’s core contextual language prediction technology.

Despite sharing the same SwiftKey DNA, SwiftKey Symbols should be viewed as a standalone app. 

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A lot of the current communication tools on the market are often too slow to select a particular image a child might choose. We realized that SwiftKey’s core prediction and personalization technology – which learns from each individual as they use it – would be a natural fit for people on the autistic spectrum who respond particularly well to routine-based activity.

Although other apps make it easy to define favourites, only SwiftKey Symbols attempts to simplify finding the right symbols through machine learning prediction. The ability to provide the technology free is also a huge benefit to this community where assistive tools can be costly and inaccessible.

2 - How does it work?

Instead of words, SwiftKey Symbols uses images to construct sentences.

SwiftKey Symbols offers a selection of pre-built categories like feelings, clothing, activities and animals, to sentence builders, chat (conversational), numbers and descriptors.

Users can build sentences themselves by selecting images, or utilise the prediction slider powered by the SwiftKey SDK.

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The app’s tech complements routine-based activity and learns from each individual’s behaviour to surface images relevant to them quickly.

For individuals with verbal impairments SwiftKey Symbols also offers audio playback. It achieves this by utilising a devices' text-to-speech engine to read sentences aloud. 

A complementary SwiftKey Symbols Admin app allows the adding of custom photos as categories or individual symbols.

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