RGCL Anniversary Highlights, Day 3

Published on Aug, 10 2022 by RGCL.

RGCL produces OpenBook through the EC-funded FIRST project

Between the years of 2011 and 2014, RGCL coordinated an EC FP7-ICT project worth more than €2.5 million called FIRST (a Flexible Interactive Reading Support Tool). Researchers on the FIRST project developed innovative language technology to simplify documents for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), on the basis that people with ASD can have problems when reading such as difficulty understanding complex instructions, misinterpreting literal meanings, or being confused by uncommon words, figures of speech and lack of precision. The project, which had six international and two UK partners, was a resounding success and brought half a million euros of EC funding to the University of Wolverhampton.

Group photo
Some of the members of the FIRST project consortium, including RGCL’s Iustin Dornescu, Constantin Orasan, Richard Evans, Victoria Yaneva and Prof Ruslan Mitkov (who is taking the photo).

RGCL researcher of 24 years, Dr Richard Evans, writes:

“The goal of the project was to develop language technologies to assist carers and relatives of people on the autism spectrum to make the information locked in written documents more accessible for these users. It brought together staff from nine organisations across Europe, including universities, software companies, healthcare service providers, NGOs, and charities. I’d say this is the project that most closely reflects my original motivation to enter the NLP research area.

It was the first time that we had a chance to see the reactions of real end users and their carers (people who were far removed from the ivory tower) to NLP software that we had collectively developed. It was an invaluable learning experience. Despite the fact that their reactions were not always positive, they were always helpful. Those stakeholders often expressed their happiness at being involved in a genuine co-production between academia, healthcare service providers, NGOs, and software companies, a co-production in which their comments were always heard and active steps were taken to remedy their complaints.

RGCL’s recent acquisition of an eye tracker means that it is now better able to determine the needs of people with reading comprehension difficulties and to develop NLP methods to meet those needs.”

The software developed In the FIRST project was called OpenBook, and was demonstrated by Richard Evans at a launch event in the final year of the project.

OpenBook Interfaces The OpenBook software in use

Thank you, Richard, for your many years of dedication and invaluable service to the Research Group and the University!

Stay tuned for more RGCL highlights posted each day over the coming fortnight.


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