Tags: stephen hawking | speech | upgrade

Stephen Hawking: Speech Upgrade Is Faster, Easier, 'Life-Changing'

Image: Stephen Hawking: Speech Upgrade Is Faster, Easier, 'Life-Changing'
(Dave J Hogan/Getty Images, file)

Tuesday, 02 Dec 2014 08:15 PM

Stephen Hawking has gotten a speech upgrade with a new system that allows him to communicate faster and easier than his decades-old platform thanks to Intel Corp and SwiftKey.

Hawking, the author of best-seller "A Brief History of Time" whose computerized voice is known around the world, has a form of motor neuron disease that has left him almost entirely paralyzed and dependent on a computer to speak and write.

"My old system was more than 20 years old and I was finding it very difficult to continue to communicate effectively and to do the things I love to do," he told reporters on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

"With the improvements made I am now able to write much faster and it means I can continue to give lectures, write papers and books, and meet with my family and friends more easily.

"This new system is life-changing for me and I hope it will serve me well for the next 20 years."

Intel said it had been working on the new platform, called ACAT (Assistive Context Aware Toolkit), in collaboration with Hawking for three years.

The new system, which is controlled by an infrared switch mounted on Hawking's glasses, has doubled his speech rates and sped up common tasks, such as finding a computer file, by about 10 times, Intel Labs engineer Lama Nachman said.

It uses predictive text algorithms developed with 6-year-old British software company SwiftKey, similar to those found on smartphones, to select words after inputting just 10-15 percent of letters, significantly reducing the effort and time required.

The software will be made public early next year so it can be used to help other people with motor neuron diseases, quadriplegia and other disabilities.

"By making this technology freely available it has the potential to greatly improve the lives of disabled people all over the world," Hawking said.

One element has not been updated, however. Hawking, who has spent much of his career at Cambridge University, specified that his distinctive computerized voice, complete with North American accent, should not be changed.

© 2017 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

 
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Stephen Hawking has gotten a speech upgrade with a new system that allows him to communicate faster and easier than his decades-old platform thanks to Intel Corp and SwiftKey.
stephen hawking, speech, upgrade
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2014-15-02
Tuesday, 02 Dec 2014 08:15 PM
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