To carry on with yesterday’s trend of heartwarming news, famed physicist
Eddie Redmayne Stephen Hawking today unveiled new technology that’s helping him communicate in a “life-changing” way.
The new platform was designed by Intel and SwiftKey, and, according to the Telegraph, helps Mr. Hawking—who suffers from a motor neuron disease related to ALS—communicate ten times faster than he’d been able to before. It’s called Assistive Context Aware Toolkit, or ACAT.
“We’re able to speed up some of the common tasks he does on his machine by about 10 times,” Intel’s Principle Engineer, Lama Nachman, is quoted as saying. “Stephen was looking for something very familiar, that is similar to his current interface but much more effective.”
On his old Intel-designed platform—which he’d been using since the mid-nineties—it was becoming harder and harder for Mr. Hawking to type out full words and phrases; as his disease progressed, his word-per-minute rate was reportedly decreasing.
ACAT, on the other hand, is able to analyze Mr. Hawking’s writings and lectures, and predict the words and phrases he uses most. That way, the physicist only has to type a few letters before ACAT completes the word for him. Additionally, if he were to type the word “black,” the system would automatically offer the word “hole,” according to Yahoo Tech.
The new device hooks over Mr. Hawking’s glasses and rests on his cheek, a body part he’s able to control. An infrared sensor picks up Mr. Hawking’s cheek motions and determines his commands.
“My old system is more than 20 years old, and I was finding it very difficult to continue to communicate effectively and do the things I love to do every day,” Mr. Hawking reportedly said. “This new system is life-changing for me, and I hope that it will serve me well for the next 20 years.”
Hopefully, ACAT won’t just be serving Mr. Hawking. Intel reportedly plans to make the system open-source and free to use, so that anyone suffering from a disease like Mr. Hawking’s can communicate more effectively.