Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 March 1998
In this paper, we present results of a project that investigated the application of lexicon based text retrieval techniques to Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC). As a practical outcome of this research, a communication aid based on message retrieval by key words was designed, implemented and evaluated. The message retrieval module in the system uses a large semantic lexicon, derived from the WordNet database, for query expansion. Trials have been carried out with the device to evaluate whether the approach is suitable for AAC, and to determine the semantic relations that lead to efficient message retrieval. The first part of this paper describes the background of the project and highlights the retrieval requirements for a communication aid, which differ considerably from the requirements in standard text retrieval. We then present the overall design of the WordKeys communication aid and describe the tasks of its sub-modules. We summarise trials that have been carried out to determine the effect of semantic query expansion on the success of message retrieval. Evaluation results show that information about word frequency can solve problems that occurred in the semantic query expansion because of taxonomies that have too many intermediate steps between closely related words. Finally, a user evaluation with the improved system showed that full text retrieval is an effective approach to message access in a communication aid.