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December 2, 2014 AT 11:23 am

Stephen Hawking’s New Speech System is Free and Open-Source #makereducation

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Wired UK has a story on Stephen Hawking’s new speech system, ACAT, that’s both open source and available to the public for free:

Intel has today unveiled a new open-source communication system created especially for Professor Stephen Hawking, which can be adapted for for the three million people worldwide who suffer from quadriplegia and motor neurone disease.

The development of the system, called ACAT (Assistive Context Aware Toolkit), has been exclusively detailed in the latest edition of WIRED. ACAT is the result of years of collaboration between Intel and Hawking — with the last three years in particular being instrumental to the system’s development. Intel believes it has the potential to become the backbone of a modern, customisable system that other researchers and technologists can adapt to help those with disabilities.

Read more.

Joao Medeiros, Wired UK’s Science Editor, gives us a great breakdown of the new and groundbreaking system in a separate article here:

The Intel team envisaged an upheaval of Hawking’s archaic system, which would involve introducing new hardware. “Justin was thinking that we could use technology such as facial-gesture recognition, gaze tracking and brain-computer interfaces,” says Nachman. “Initially we fed him a lot of these wild ideas and tried a lot of off-the-shelf technologies.” Those attempts, more often than not, failed. Gaze tracking couldn’t lock on to Hawking’s gaze, because of the drooping of his eyelids. Before the Intel project, Hawking had tested EEG caps that could read his brainwaves and potentially transmit commands to his computer. Somehow, they couldn’t get a strong enough brain signal. “We would flash letters on the screen and it would try to select the right letter just by registering the brain’s response,” says Wood. “It worked fine with me, then Stephen tried it and it didn’t work well. They weren’t able to get a strong enough signal-to-noise.”

Read more


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