Intel has announced the release of Stephen Hawking’s speech program as an open source platform to help better the technology and serve a wide range of people with disabilities. Intel’s Assistive Context-Aware Toolkit (ACAT) communication software was developed for the British physicist after he had made a personal request to the company to replace his dated system as symptoms of his ALS continued to worsen.
ACAT translates Hawking’s facial twitches into text, allowing the physicist to speak by controlling a virtual keyboard using cheek movements, selecting letters displayed on the computer screen to form sentences.
Intel wants their communications platform to be further implemented and adapted for people afflicted with motor neuron diseases and quadriplegia. The code’s release last April means that millions of people will now be able to benefit from this technology.
Hawking spoke on the personal impact it’s had last December,
“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 and Intel envision that the platform’s free and open-sourced availability will inspire research and technology communities to further develop the software. They’ve specifically targeted communities who develop sensing, text prediction, context awareness and user interface design.
Lama Nachman of Intel Labs said at a conference in late 2014,
“Technology for the disabled is often a proving ground for the technology of the future. From communications to genetic research, technology is beginning to open doors to possibilities that can only be imagined.”