Gadgets: Dyslexics get it with Ghotit

July 23, 2009 14:36

Ghotit attacks the root of the dyslexic's problem, before the stage when a person can think about getting creative with his writing.

3 minute read.

Even with modern technology, on-line translation programs and spell checkers, dyslexics have a hard time getting around on-line. Especially since more and more business communication is being done by e-mail, messaging and Twitters. A dyslexic himself, Ofer Chermesh decided that he'd made enough mistakes in writing letters to business colleagues in e-mails. A deal breaker was one he'd written while working for the telecommunications company Comverse. Hoping to do business with British Telecom, Chermesh wrote an "enticing" e-mail to his prospective business partner, a man, something along the lines of "looking forward to mating with you." It didn't go over very well. The business connection was never made, and unfortunately these kinds of common mistakes are "something that happens quite often to a dyslexic," Chermesh says. For damage control Chermesh started thinking of a program that could help him find the right words, even when the original spelling of how he perceived the word to look was unrecognizable by a spell checker. He partnered with a technology graduate from the Weizmann Institute, and they created Ghotit. Free to schools and educational institutions, and free if used on-line, those who'd like Ghotit to integrate with their Word and Microsoft applications can download it for $10 a month. About 30 schools from Michigan to Los Angeles are plugged into Ghotit and are very happy with the results, Chermesh says. "Schools that are working with it right now are using it as an assistant for students with disabilities," says Chermesh, who has schools in Germany and the UK plugged into the program too. Schools, he says, can have as many accounts as they want for free. Although there are two other Israeli companies working in the sphere: building tools for people with English as a second language, and dyslexia - WhiteSmoke and Ginger - Ghotit is much more basic, attacking the root of the dyslexic's problem, before the stage when a person can think about getting creative with his writing, says Chermesh. Working as an enterprise with no investment, you won't see all the hi-tech bells and whistles one might expect on Ghotit. But it's this simplicity and ease of use that might give dyslexics some peace of mind. "We are doing everything we can at low budget. We have quite a few people connected to educational institutes in the US pointing users to Ghotit," says Chermesh. "It's improved my quality of life. I know the problem of being a dyslexic." Prior to Ghotit, he would rely on a set of short cuts to aid him in avoiding tricky words. "I would limit my vocabulary and write out words that I would feel comfortable spelling." If he had no idea how the word looked on paper, he would look for a translation from Hebrew to English, often with poor results. Highlighting the errors, Ghotit relies on human intervention to correct the error. It won't do it automatically for you, but that's important for people who have dyslexia or who are struggling with English as a second language, says Chermesh. The algorithm, or engine that Ghotit runs on, is being improved and updated all the time, good news for the struggling dyslexic writer. It looks at the basics of spelling and grammar, and helps you decide the best choice. In writing, Chermesh says that "you need to be perfect. This is how the world sees you. You don't really speak to the person, you send e-mails, and if that can't reflect what you are doing, you have a real problem." Ghotit was founded in 2007, is based in Netanya, and currently employs three. The company has hired outsourcing experts for developing plug-ins, and expects to pay them based on a revenue-sharing model. Ghotit hopes to have sales by the end of this month. "We are saying that we want people to be able to correct their text correctly. They need to be able to correct correctly and to be certain that what they are correcting is correct," says Chermesh, speaking like someone who has an interesting, if not complicated relationship to the written word.

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