Timothy Lord: You have computing hardware here.
Joshua Lifton: Yep.
Tim: And these are stenographic keyboards.
Joshua: Yeah. So, these are prototype steno typing machines, they’re used for stenography. Stenography is over 100 years old. It was originally done on a keyboard. They looked pretty much the same layout, but a different physical form, and it had a roll of paper that would unroll as you typed and then later you would go back and look at the markings on the paper which were just dots and you would transcribe that to English language. So the goal of stenography is to do this transcription in real time, so as quickly as anybody could speak, the conservation between two lawyers or a medical examiner and somebody else could occur, somebody will be sitting there, a stenographer will be sitting there, transcribing it in real time, that’s the origin of stenography. And it really hasn’t changed that much. This same keyboard layout has persisted for over 100 years. The theory behind learning it and using it is essentially the same. They went digital about 30 or 40 years ago and really since then it hasn’t changed much at all. What we’re doing here is we’re bringing it into the modern age in a couple of different ways, first everything is being open sourced. Up until now everything has been closed sourced and quite expensive, so
Tim: What does expensive mean in this case?
Joshua: Expensive means for a machine you’re looking at a couple of thousand, maybe up to $4, 000, $5, 000 for the software which is required to make machine work on a computer, again another $2000, $4, 000 and then there’s the cost of education, so actually learning how to use it and training yourself and whatnot can be many times more than that. So you’re looking at kind of a minimum $10, 000 investment for a professional quality setup. The little price point necessitates a different physical setup, so this machine has physical key switches as opposed to levers that most steno machines have. It’s more like a piano almost, so that brings the cost down a little bit, but really there is just a lot of innovation that goes into this, that doesn’t exist yet in the modern stenography world. So for example you don’t need any software on your computer to use this, right, you can plug it in, your computer will recognize it as USB keyboard, and you just start typing, and this can happen on any computer. Right now there’s no other stenotype machine that can do that.
Tim: Since stenography generally means making phonetic output, how does this interpret that to make an intelligible bit string? If I type “jumped over the hill”
Joshua: Yeah, right, right, right. The foundation of stenography is phonetic. It’s phonetic mapping between what you are hearing and what you would chord out. The way that translation actually takes place, half of it’s in the human, you need to learn what that mapping is, right, what am I hearing and then how do my fingers move on the keyboard to make that phonetic representation and then from there you end up with what's called a chord and that chord is then translated according to software, in this case in the machine, and it’s a giant look-up table. There’s a large dictionary that translates this particular chord or set of chords into this arbitrary string, and that string can be a single letter, it could be a word, it could be phrase, it could be an entire book, right, it’s really totally up to you what that is. Now there are standards of course, and the standard dictionary will have all of the English language words, plus all the common phrases and then you would add to that and modify it as you grow with the stenographer and as you enter different domains, so you might for example have a different dictionary if you’re doing a court reporting case than when you’re actually in a college situation transcribing a professor’s notes for medical school, for example. And even then you might have different dictionaries for say, programming in Java versus programming in Python, right, and that’s something that’s really interesting about this, right now there are really only professional stenographers, then everyone else.
Tim: At that price?
Joshua: At that $10, 000 price and that level of commitment, maybe great to type at 225 words a minute but I’d be happy with 120 also or even 100.