Intel has revealed a new open source speech system created for Professor Stephen Hawking. Hawking suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and is perhaps best recognised as that scientist in a wheel chair who talks through a computer. Intel hopes that the system can also be adapted for other people who suffer similar motor and neuron diseases.
It has taken the Intel team some three years to build and adapt the new Assistive Context Aware Toolkit (ACAT) for Hawking in a way that allows the world’s most famous physicist to communicate more effectively than his previous systems. ALS suffers gradually lose control of their muscles and often end up unable to interact with technology like other able bodied people would. Hawking, who does not have control over most of his body, currently uses a computer through an infra-red laser detecting subtle movements in his cheek.
Hawking and Intel are hoping that the open nature of the project will encourage researchers to use it for their own work in providing solutions to people with disabilities. Mostly for those who require the aid of computers to communicate with people as a large part of the system uses technology from keyboard app Swiftkey.
While Intel took up the Ice Bucket challenge months ago to raise awareness for ALS, this is possibly a much larger step for the company in contributing to assisting those living with the disease.