TextScroll: Week 1, June 6 – Michelle

Hello World! My name is Michelle Feng, a rising junior at Scripps College. As a Linguistics and Cognitive Science major, my greatest intellectual curiosity is “what makes things easy-to-understand?” CS, linguistics, and cognitive science have all offered unique insights into this question, and I’m excited to apply what I’ve learned to my CS research this summer under Professor Medero. Over the next 10 weeks I will be contributing to TextScroll, an iPad app that will hopefully become an effective and economical tool for text simplification researchers. Currently, a popular way of determining how difficult sentences are to read is to track a reader’s eye movements as they scan the page. The idea is that the longer a reader spends on a sentence, the harder the sentence is. However, this method requires expensive cameras in order to capture subtle eye movements and isn’t affordable for most researchers. Without the use of large, expensive cameras, TextScroll will use other ways to determine where a user’s eyes are focused, such as having the user tilt the iPad to speed up or slow down the rate at which a line of text is scrolling past on the screen. By using the iPad’s tilt mechanism to measure reading speed, TextScroll could prove to be an effective alternative to the eye-tracking technique. This project is a great combination of all my skills and interests, so I’m excited to get started!

Past researchers already have the tilt functionality up and running, so my objectives for this summer are to further polish the app. My particular interests are in making the app more user-friendly and to possibly add a finger trace mode. By asking users to use their finger to track where they’re currently reading, I could use that input to figure out reading speed. This would also make the reading experience more organic than the current tilt method. But before I can get into all that, I need to learn Swift first! After doing orientation and getting my payroll and swipe access set up, I followed this quick intro to Swift before noon. I thought it was pretty straightforward. In the afternoon I installed XCode and am currently working through a Tetris tutorial. I’m getting a feel for the general syntax, but I can’t use downcasting, subscripts, closures, enumerations, custom operators, and others too confidently yet. Tomorrow I hope to follow some more tutorials or build something simpler from scratch to solidify my understanding.

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