Stephen Hawking is a survivor. He’s been valiantly holding his own against ALS disease for 50 years now, but it’s still taking its toll. The cheek-twitching mechanism he’s been using to talk for the past 10 years isn’t quite as efficient as it used to be. He’s down to one word per minute at times, but Intel’s CTO is working hard on a fix.
While Hawking’s communication system has been reliant on voluntary cheek-twitch input alone, Intel CTO Justin Rattner noted at CES that Hawking has a few other reliable motions that could be used for communication as well. And if just one of them could be utilized, Hawking could at least use Morse code, which would be an improvement over what he’s doing now.
Intel has been helping Hawking out of this jam since the 90s, but now it’s time for an upgrade. “Up to now, these technologies didn’t work well enough to satisfy someone like Stephen, who wants to produce a lot of information,” said Rattner. “We’ve built a new, character-driven interface in modern terms that includes a better word predictor.”
The plan to improve Hawking’s communication ability lines up with Intel’s plans to develop “pervasive assistance” technology at large. This kind of tech requires a slew of new hardware including cameras, accelerometers, microphones, and thermometers that will try to suss out the context of any given situation to give Hawking, or anyone, help speaking, as well as help checking calenders, browsing the web, and using social networks based on meter readings and general habits.
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