Googler Shumin Zhai awarded with the ACM UIST Lasting Impact Award

November 3, 2014

Posted by Alfred Spector, Vice President, Engineering

Recently, at the 27th ACM User Interface Software and Technology Symposium (UIST’14), Google Senior Research Scientist Shumin Zhai and University of Cambridge Lecturer Per Ola Kristensson received the 2014 Lasting Impact Award for their seminal paper SHARK2: a large vocabulary shorthand writing system for pen-based computers. Most simply put, this is one of those rare works that is responsible for fundamental and lasting advances in the industry, and is the basis for the rapidly growing number of keyboards that use gesture typing, including products such as ShapeWriter, Swype, SwiftKey, SlideIT, TouchPal, and Google Keyboard.

First presented 10 years ago at UIST’04, Shumin and Per Ola’s paper is a pioneering work on word-gesture keyboard interaction that described the architecture, algorithms and interfaces of a high-capacity multi-channel gesture recognition system-SHARK2. SHARK2 increased recognition accuracy and relaxed precision requirements by using the shape and location of gestures in addition to context based language models. In doing so, Shumin and Per Ola delivered a paradigm of touch screen gesture typing as an efficient method for text entry that has continued to drive the development of mobile text entry across the industry.
"Awarded for its scientific contribution of algorithms, insights, and user interface considerations essential to the practical realization of large-vocabulary shape-writing systems for graphical keyboards, laying the groundwork for new research, industrial applications, and widespread user benefit."
Prior to joining Google in 2011, Shumin worked at the IBM Almaden Research Center for 15 years, where he originated and led the SHARK project, further developing and refining it to include a low latency recognition engine that introduced the ability to accurately recognize a large vocabulary of words based upon the patterns (sokgraphs) drawn on a touchscreen device. SHARK and SHARK2 subsequently continued further development as ShapeWriter. During his tenure at IBM, Shumin additionally pursued a wide variety of HCI research areas including, but not limited to, studying the ease and efficiency of HCI interfaces, camera phone based motion sensing, and cross-device user experience.

At Google, Shumin has continued to inspire the Human-Computer Interaction research community, publishing prolifically and leading a group that incorporates HCI research, machine learning, statistical language modeling and mobile computing to advance the state of the art of text input for smart touchscreen keyboards. Building on his earlier work with SHARK/ShapeWriter, Gesture Typing is just one of the innovations that make things like typing messages on mobile device easier for hundreds of millions of people each day, and remains one of the most prominent features on Android keyboards.

Shumin has been highly active in academia during his career, as both visiting professor and lecturer at world-class universities, and is currently the Editor-in-Chief of ACM Transactions on Computer- Interaction, a Fellow of the ACM and a Member of the CHI Academy. We’re proud to congratulate Shumin and Per Ola on receiving one of the most prestigious honors in the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) research community, and look forward to their future contributions.