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July 2012 Software Development Update

2012 July 25
by Amaya Webster


We continue to update Poet, DIAGRAM’s web-based image description tool, and many of the most recent changes come directly in response to user feedback. For instance, we introduced user interface changes that allow users to navigate parts of books (instead of working with an entire book at once). We also made changes to the way tables are handled and added a My Books feature so that users can browse the list of books they’ve uploaded.

The Math Helper feature, which allows describers to input equations that then get automatically converted into MathML, is also now available in Poet for beta testing. In the meantime, work continues on our enhancements to the Math Description Engine, the technology beneath the MathTrax graphing tool that provides automatic text description of graphs. This work includes merging new code from Georgia Tech with the original code from NASA in order to incorporate the enhancements made by the former.  The code merge establishes a unified MDE baseline on which all future enhancements will be built, preparing the way for contributions from the open source software community. We will be adding description templates to this version to support description of Algebra 1 textbook graphs as well as additional output capabilities such as SVG.


[Ed. Note: The WAVES project is a DIAGRAM subcontract focused on developing an open source, web-based math input tool for algebra, which will allow students to have a simplified math interaction and equation input capability online. The following project update from Wunji Lau at gh, LLC details preliminary work they are doing in order to assess what mathematical symbols the input tool should focus on.]

The team at gh, LLC has built a datamining application to gather information about the frequency of various mathematical symbols used in a standard secondary education algebra textbook. The tool can be set to use a wide range of parameters, enabling researchers to evaluate not only how often a given symbol is used in a book, but how it is used in relation to other symbols and within specific time periods (such as, for example, a single day’s homework assignments). This data gathering process is the first step in developing an efficient and easy-to-use math input interface for blind and visually impaired computer users. The findings of the first round of datamining will be summarized in a white paper that will be released in early August.

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