Intel helps Stephen Hawking better communicate


By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Thursday, 04 December, 2014


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Intel has developed a new communications platform for renowned physicist professor Stephen Hawking, to improve his ability to communicate with the world.

The company worked with Hawking for three years to develop a system tailored to the ALS sufferer’s specific needs.

The system, called ACAT (Assistive Context Aware Toolkit), has improved Hawking’s typing speed by 100%. By enabling technologies to efficiently interoperate, the system has also enabled a tenfold improvement in common tasks including browsing, editing and navigating web pages or documents.

ACAT takes input from Hawking’s existing cheek sensor, detected via an infrared switch mounted to his glasses, to allow him to select a character on the integrated computer. It uses SwiftKey language technology to improve the system’s ability to predict words and characters.

The inputs are then sent to Hawking’s speech synthesiser on a Lenovo laptop running Windows.

To perform a simple task such as a web search, Hawking previously had to switch from a communications to a browsing interface, navigate the mouse to a search bar and type in the text. The new system automates all these steps.

“Medicine has not been able to cure me, so I rely on technology to help me communicate and live. 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,” Hawking said.

Intel believes ACAT has the potential to form the basis for a customisable support system for quadriplegics and patients with motor neurone diseases.

Image courtesy of Intel Free Press under CC

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