Stephen Hawking gets new improved speech platform thanks to Intel
A new communications platform was unveiled at an event in London today by Prof Stephen Hawking. Intel collaborated with Prof Hawking, perhaps the best know user of speech synthesis in the world, to create the new Assistive Context Aware Toolkit (ACAT). The new system replaces a decades old model and is said to now be “dramatically improving his ability to communicate with the world”.
At the presentation we learned that the new ACAT system will be made available to reserarchers and technologists by January 2015. Intel says it has the potential to be the basis of a modern, customizable system that “other researchers and technologists can use to benefit those who have motor neuron diseases (MND) and quadriplegia”. Prof Hawking has an MND which is related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Talking about the advanced new communications system Hawking said “Medicine has not been able to cure me, so I rely on technology to help me communicate and live”. He added that “Intel has been supporting me for almost 20 years, allowing me to do what I love every day. The development of this system has the potential to improve the lives of disabled people around the world and is leading the way in terms of human interaction and the ability to overcome communication boundaries that once stood in the way.”
The practical benefits of the new ACAT system are quantified by Intel as follows:
- Hawking’s typing speed is twice as fast
- Common tasks can be improved by 10X
- Easier, more accurate and faster browsing, editing
- Saving, editing and switching between tasks are sped up greatly
Some key components of the new system include SwiftKey integration, which has lead to excellent prediction so he only has to type 20% of all text. You might already use SwiftKey on your own tablet or smartphone. Hawking inputs characters moving his tongue on the inside of his cheek – movement which is detected by an infra red sensor. Intel also can use sensors for touch, eye blinks, eyebrow movements or other user inputs for creating text communications. Finally the text is changed to speech on a Windows 8.1 laptop.
If you watch the video you will hear that Prof Hawking has kept his ‘signature tone’ but behind the scenes it is easier and swifter for him to communicate now.