The

Virtual Ethiopic Keyboard for Smart Phones
Andualem Workneh, Yonan Getachew, Gedion TAMENE, Solomon Atnafu,
emails:, alemfree@yahoo.com, yonangetachew@gmail.com, gedion_tamene@yahoo.com , satnafu@gmail.com

Addis Ababa University
November 11, 2010 M4D 2010, Kampala, Uganda
This project is partially supported by UNECA

Outline
1. Introduction

2. The Challenges of Virtual Keyboard Design
for Ethiopic Character Set 3. System Layout Design 4. Implementation 5. Conclusions

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Ethiopia
• At the horn of Africa, about 1.1 sqkm,
• A country of more than 80 million, 45% < 15 years • More than 75 languages, • The Official working Language (Amharic, with Ethiopic script), • Use of other languages at regional government level,

• Many initiatives of localization
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1. Introduction
• The Ethiopic Character Set
– Amharic is the working language of the federal government of Ethiopia (a country with a population of more than 80 million) and is spoken and written as a first or second language in many parts of the country. – Among the other languages that use Ethiopic script are Tigrigna, Guragegna, Agewigna, and many other languages in the southern region of Ethiopia. – Tigrigna is a language for about nine million people particularly in Tigrai region of Ethiopia and in Eretria.

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Introduction . . .

• keyboard - The most popular input method

• two common types of keyboards: the physical and the
virtual keyboards

• for mobile computing devices - The virtual keyboard
fits on their small screen size • virtual keyboards seem to be the best choice in many situations
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2. The Challenges –Keyboard design
• Keyboard Mapping and Input Methods (Many Efforts since the 1980’s)

Standard Keyboard Mapping: • Typewriter layout, • Phonetic layout;

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Ethiopic Web Pages

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Advantage: • • As a result of many efforts Ethiopic is Unicode supported. Ethiopic Unicode (1200 – 137F)

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The mobile phone input method design (Previous efforts)

Ethiopic Key-pad for mobile phones Standard Key-pad for mobile phones

Composing Template-based Text

By Shiferaw Abebe, Solomon Atnafu and Samuel Kinde, Addis Ababa University
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3. System Layout Design
Character

Mapping to Character code

Key press Event

Keyboard Layout Key press Event

Updating the Keyboard layout

Figure: Work flow of the virtual Ethiopic keyboard system

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NonBasic Character selection component

Basic Character selection set component

Figure: Proposed Layout for the virtual Ethiopic keyboard

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4. Implementation
The System Development Environment • Android operating system based smart phones are selected. • The basic reasons to choose Android platform are that:
– It uses Freetype, a free and open source bitmap and vector font engine, which supports Unicode text layout and glyph rendering. Ethiopic Unicode fonts, such as Microsoft's Nyala and GFZ's Geez Free Zemen, can be used to render text using Freetype on the Android platform. Other platforms such as the Palm OS lack the internationalization support required to fully meet the needs of Ethiopic software development. – It comes with immediate availability to mobile versions of Google search, Google Maps, and Google Products that allow independent developers to create their own array of applications at a much less restrictive cost.

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Virtual Ethiopic Keyboard System (VEK)

The Top
Panel

The Main Panel

Figure : VEK on Android Emulator
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Figure: on the Android based HTC G1 smart phone
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Figure: (A)-The panel for Ethiopic and Amharic numerals and Mathematical symbols; (B)- the Virtual QWERTY keyboard.
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Impact: Helped to localize mobile applications
(Case: Mobile Health- and Demographic-Data Reporting and Communication System for the Butajira Rural Health Program, by Andualem Workneh, Yonan Getachew and Solomon Atnafu)

Forms used for data collection

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House Registration Form

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5. Conclusion
• YES, WE CAN
– YES; Technology Should embrace culture, – a virtual keyboard layout is designed for more than 340 Ethiopic characters, – multi-script text writing is supported, users can switch between our VEK and the Virtual QWERTY keyboard. – Any mobile application can be localized, – Opens the way to include other smart phones, such as Nokia and other mobile operating systems.

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አመሰግናለሁ 

Thank You 
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