Update: Gal Sont passed away in May of 2016.
Earlier this year, I travelled to Israel to take part in a very special project. I met up with the team at Israeli start-up Click2Speak, which comprises two tech developers Gal Sont and Dan Russ.
Gal had always been an energetic, ambitious adrenaline junkie but in 2009 he was diagnosed with ALS, a severe form of motor neurone disease. Within months it became difficult for Gal to move easily. However he was determined not to let his disease prevent from living a full life, as near as possible to how it had been before the illness.
As the disease progressed and his body began to deteriorate, Gal grew frustrated at the lack of communicative tools available for people with severe disabilities and the high cost of what was on the market.
He decided to enlist the help of his ex-colleague and long-time friend Dan and together they began to conceive the idea of creating a superior on-screen keyboard that would effectively ‘type’ using only eye movement.
This is where SwiftKey came in – the duo adapted and integrated our SDK for the keyboard which would ultimately allow the user to ‘type’ using the movement of their eyes rather than their hands.
Gal said: “I decided to build the best and fastest onscreen keyboard that when we combine with the camera will give you a very cheap and very good communication solution, accessible for all people not just the very rich.
“Communication is the basis of everything. To tell someone you love them, to ask for something to drink, it is the basic need of everyone of us. So if I can do it faster and more efficiently, I’ve won the world.”
Gal and Dan are ambitious – their main objective is to reach a point where all paralyzed individuals who need assistive technology of this kind could have it on demand at a reasonable price. They are keen to ensure that the quality of life of severely paralyzed people all over the world will be improved with this revolutionary on-screen keyboard. You can find out more about their work on the Click2Speak site.
We at SwiftKey feel privileged to have played even a minor role in such an inspirational and invaluable project. During the trip to Tel Aviv, I was struck by Gal’s good nature and relentless optimism in the face of such an overwhelming situation. It gives us a great sense of satisfaction to collaborate with companies such as Click2Speak that are actively contributing to solving genuine problems faced by many around the world.
Hear Gal’s incredible story in this short BBC video.
Sarah Rowley and the team