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UCPH researcher behind new application for dyslexics

Technology — A new and free application from the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) can simplify difficult texts for people with dyslexia. The first of its kind in the world.

Long, compound words are difficult to read when you’re dyslexic. But a new piece of software can potentially help 400,000 dyslexics, just in Denmark.

Joachim Bingel, who has just finished his PhD project from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Copenhagen, is the main creator of the application, which is based on artificial intelligence.

To my knowledge, there is nothing like it in Denmark, or the entire world, in fact

Researcher Joachim Bingel

The app is called Lexi and acts as a plug-in to an internet browser. A browser extension, in other words, that works with, say, Google Chrome.

When the user reads texts on the internet, selected words, paragraphs or entire articles, can be selected, which Lexi then simplifies and makes legible.

“What distinguishes this from other reading apps for people with dyslexia, is that it is a personalized tool based on the individual’s reading challenges and the needs of users,” Joachim Bingel says to the University Post.

Positive feedback from students

In practice, it works by users providing feedback every time they use the software. In this way, it continuously learns more about where the individual user has difficulty reading.

LEXI

• Based on the latest research in the field of language technology and machine learning and using artificial neural networks to determine which words are particularly difficult for a particular user.

• As a general rule, the programme determines which words are easier than others, based on texts that have been gathered from DR Ligetil, news in simple Danish. The words that occur more frequently in these texts will be assumed to be easier than words more prevalent in general news articles.

• Using machine learning techniques such as multi-task learning Lexi can transfer knowledge across users, i.e. learn something about the user A from what it knows about user B.

“To my knowledge, there is nothing like it in Denmark, or the entire world, in fact,” says Joachim Bingel.

The app has not been released yet, but students with dyslexia, have tested it and given positive feedback.

“The programme makes it easier for students to read academic literature. For the time being, it is only on Danish, but in the long term, we hope to develop the software so that it works in other languages. Many people have difficulty reading English texts, so here it would be a great help, also for students who are not dyslexic,” says Joachim Bingel.

The new application is free and is expected to be fully developed and published in the beginning of March 2019.

You can find the programme here.

Translated by Mike Young

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