Technology For Society

Focus on technology trends that create an impact on larger part of Society.

Gyanpad(Knowledge Kiosk)

Support for  Indian languages  on computers  gained momentum  around 2005 with support of Unicode.   Five   years  have passed  and I continue to hear the same issues about  fonts, input methods for typing in  native languages. Usage of computers through native languages has not gone beyond  a small minority of people  who are  passionate  about their  native tongue.

 In India, computer sales  are growing  year on year  with negligible impact of  the global recession  and mobile  phone density has grown rapidy beyond  expectations.  Net connectivity  through dial up /ADSL modems/Wireless  is  available throughout the country.  Broadband net   connectivity is not growing rapidly primarily due to  high cost, though  people complain of lower speeds.  Low speed connectivity can still  be very helpful, if put to  use for accessing   knowledge  sites  like Wikipedia.  To  clear the input method hurdles,  I present  an application called Gyanpad (Sanskrit word for Knowledge and English  synonym of  Slate), which in its first avatar allows you to select an Indian language  and  search  Wikipedia and sister sites  in a user friendly  way with just on screen keyboards.  So you can   call   all your  family /friends  and introduce them  to native  language use on computers without them  being scared  by   the  big 101 key physical board with just English letters o n it  .

Gyanpad(Knowledge Kiosk)-Hindi InscriptSearch
Gyanpad supports 15 Indian languages. Here is  a mini user guide for Hindi. You can try this out even if you do not know Hindi, and explain easily to your family and friends. Click   Gyanpad application  (here) .  From now on, just use your  mouse. Select Hindi-Inscript  and click on  'Next' .  Search page loads with Hindi Inscript  "On Screen Keyboard".   You  can see Hindi letter shapes on the screen.  You can adjust  the keyboard  size if you are using  Firefox with  'CTRL'  and '+' or  '-' key s.  (Physical keyboard  needed just for this step,  if you have not configured it earlier).  Suppose you want to type  the word  Hindi  (हिंदी) , move to the  keyboard button showing (ह) and click on it . Continue  the same with    the buttons  showing (ि), (ं)  (द) (ी) and then click on the 'Search' button.  In a second, you will see the search results from wikimedia  sites courtesy Google.  Browse through the same and click on the page you want to see.  The new page will open  and you can navigate using hyperlinks.  If you want to  search for   something else, use back buttons of the browser  to reach the search page.     So you will come to a situation, where you can't see the  Hindi letter on the keyboard. Don't panic ,  just click on the button  with 'Up  Arrow ' (shift)  and you can  see  different set of characters on the buttons. When you have to  form  complex   letter  with  two or more consonants and then a vowel, make use of the combining symbol  on the first panel  called Halanth/Virama (्) after you type each consonant. Always end with  the  appropriate vowel symbol on the first pane.

May be you want  to teach the young ones, who are more comfortable with English than Hindi.  No problem  select Hindi-Phonetic  from the first page and  you will see   Hindi Phonetic Keyboard. The initial  pane has English  lowercase letters. By  clicking  on letters correspond to  English spelling of Hindi words,  you can enter  the word you want to search.  For our  example Hindi  (हिंदी), just   locate    ('h' )('i' ) ('n') ('d') ('I') and  then click  .  You can   use upper case letters by 'Up Arrow'( Shift key)  to get  different   sounds    d (द)  D(ड)  and long vowels.  With 'CTRL+ALT' button, you can  change the keyboard pane  to show   Hindi letters, which you can enter, in case you are not able to get the appropriate Hindi letters  using English keys.

I have built this tiny application  using the Google resources . Google  provides the  'On screen keyboard' (Virtual Keyboard)  option from its home page, when you opt to use the customized site for your language. However, this application  will be useful  in Cybercafes/ Exhibitions/Training Centers/Computer Laboratories, where it is desirable not to customize the settings to avoid incovenience to other users.

Google  is yet  to release Inscript keyboards for other Indian Languages.  So manage with Phonetic Keyboards.   Try  it out and   share your feedback by commenting on this post.    It is my  strong desire  to see  that  information from   Wikipedia  /Government  /Not for Profit institutional  sites  is  available free to every Indian  using  low cost  netbooks/custom computing devices with just touch screen/mouse interface.   These devices  can be made available at every public place,  be it   corner   retail store/bus stop/mall /hospital/...

Did  not understand some   of the words above,  just go straight to  Gyanpad application 
and search in  English/ native language.


Arjun September 21, 2010 at 5:44:00 PM PDT  

Thanks to all the people on wikimediaindia-list who responded to my mails related to this post. Their suggestions will be taken when considering the next release of this application.

Arjun September 22, 2010 at 5:18:00 PM PDT  

Pl. support the virtual keyboard feature request to Google to improve their native keymap support

Arjun August 26, 2011 at 4:32:00 AM PDT  

Google has quietly added inscript and other layouts to its virtual keyboard project before deprecating the API on May 26, 2011. API will continue to function. I have updated my application to make use of the inscript and other layouts (Tamil99).
Reference is not updated with new keyboard layout codes. I found that twoletterlangcode_inscript is the new code for inscript layouts and similarly ta_tamil99 for Tamil 99 layout.
Hope the Gyanpad app will be more useful in introducing native language users to computers and wikipedia

See Google keyboard layout reference for more detatils on the mappings

Arjun October 31, 2011 at 8:45:00 AM PDT  

Recently checked on Samsung Ace Android Smartphone, which renders most indic languages except Oriya. I found the phonetic keyboard interface working nicely although the phone itself does not support the input methods directly.

Unknown July 6, 2015 at 1:07:00 AM PDT  

Hi Arjun, i just read your article on knowledge kiosks, there are many other types of kiosk also nowadays, for e.g. any time payment kiosks. . to know more about them, click here.

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