The Technology Behind Stephen Hawking’s Voice

The Technology Behind Stephen Hawking’s Voice

Stephen Hawking, 73, a famous physicist, cosmologist, and author, has a motor neuron disease and is almost entirely paralyzed. To share his thoughts with the world, he relies on technology and the famous computer-generated voice. His system got a modern upgrade from Intel engineers in December, which Hawking showed off at a London event.

Tech enthusiasts applauded when Hawking and Intel recently unveiled the new state-of-the-art communication system, the Assistive Context Aware Toolkit (ACAT) that allows the professor to communicate through speech as well as access his computer and convey lectures.

Intel said it was able to increase the effectiveness of Hawking's system by incorporating predictive text technology from SwiftKey. The software recognizes Hawking's communication patterns, enabling him to type less than 20 percent of all characters to express what he wants to say.

The existing cheek sensor syncs with a switch on his glasses, allowing him to choose characters he wishes to type, which can then be processed by his speech synthesizer and spoken out loud from his Lenovo laptop.

Aside from its phenomenal design, there is something else newsworthy about the system that will delight all tech enthusiasts. ACAT is open source and free to use. Intel said it planned to make the technology available for free, allowing researchers and technologists to build on the software and modify it in different ways that could aid more than 3 million people worldwide who have motor neuron disease or speech disorders to better communicate with the world.