KeyLekh and E-lekh Research Project

Keylekh and e-lekh was a part of the “Interfaces for All” project at Media Lab Asia, which was a collaboration between MIT Media Labs and Ministry of Information Technology. The aim of Keylekh and e-lekh was to explore and design easy methods to input Indian languages, so that rural and urban users could use computers in their everyday lives without having to know English.

Keylekh was a keyboard based Indian language input method while e-lekh ws the touch screen variant of it. We wrote a paper based on the research methods used in this study and presented it at CHI 2004 in Vienna.

We also applied for a patent for keylekh and e-lekh through IIT Bombay.

Approach

The Keylekh layout was based on the Varnamala and made it easy for users to find the characters. We prototyped the keyboard with external vendors and produced a small pilot batch to test and give away the samples. We also conducted road shows and longitudinal studies to get user feedback and see if the product was a viable alternative to the existing keyboards - Inscript and Aakruti.

A few studies were also conducted in schools over a period of one month to see the learnability of the keyboard and the typing speed when compared to the other keyboards. Based on this result, a few improvements were planned and another version based on frequency of letters was planned to be designed.

E-lekh was designed for the touch screen. Based on the peculiarities of the indian language, we came up with a method separating the vowel and consonant that made it easier and faster to input Indian characters. This method was also designed to be implemented as a touch screen keyboard for desktops. A prototype of this was also created for Palm devices.

My Role

Project Coordination, User research, Prototyping

 

The first prototype of Keylekh. Based on feedback to this keyboard, the number of rows were reduced to the standard 5 in future designs. The keyboard layout was also mapped to existing English keyboards keeping in mind the need to type English and Devanagari together.

A photo from the road show conducted at IIT Bombay. The response to the keyboard was tremendous, and people from all over the campus flocked. Some even wanted a sample keyboard for their home and were prepared to pay.

Speed graph from the longitudinal tests we conducted in a few schools in Mumbai anf Thane. It turned out that the new keyboard was as good as the existing keyboards for casual typing. However optimizations in key placement would bre required to beat them at a professional level.

A screenshot of the e-lekh prototype based on a Palm simulator. The prototype itself was built by a vendor and built with VisualBasic.

A hardware variant of e-lekh. This would be used in conjunction with a QWERTY keyboard like a digitising tablet.