SwiftKey's next keyboard is built on neural network tech

New AI-fueled keyboard is better at predicting what your next word should be, says smartphone keyboard company SwiftKey.

SwiftKey's keyboard is used on over a billion devices. Image: SwiftKey

SwiftKey has developed a smartphone keyboard which it promises will help you write faster and better messages by harnessing neural-network technology.

The company's existing keyboard technology is currently used on more than a billion mobile devices globally, since launching on Android in 2010.

The standard SwiftKey keyboard is based on its 'n-gram' model, which looks at the last two words of a sentence to predict the third, offering the most regularly seen. But because it only looks back two words, sometimes the recommendations don't make sense.

"N-gram technology provides accurate predictions for common phrases and those learned from you. However, it has some limitations, as it can't capture the underlying meaning of words and can only accurately predict words that have been seen before in the same word sequence," SwiftKey said.

The new early-stage SwiftKey Neural Alpha keyboard uses an artificial neural network to predict and correct language.

The neural network is able to look back further and make more meaningful recommendations, according to SwiftKey, because it can capture the relationship between words and understand which words are similar. Within the neural model, words can be visualized in clusters, located at varying degrees of proximity to one another.

This understanding allows SwiftKey Neural to predict words that have never been seen in a particular sentence context before. For example, having seen the phrase, "Let's meet at the airport" during training, the technology is able to infer that 'office' or 'hotel' are similar words that could also be appropriate predictions in place of 'airport'.

SwiftKey said until now such neural-network language models have required significant computational resources, whereas SwiftKey Neural Alpha is engineered to operate locally on a smartphone keyboard.

The keyboard is available now for smartphones on Android 4.4 KitKat and above as an early-stage project.

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