Stephen Hawking’s Communication System Goes Open Source!

From January onwards, millions of motor neurone disease sufferers worldwide, will get access to the system, which allows Stephen Hawking communicate with the outside world. Scientists announced on Tuesday that the decision has been taken by Intel at a London press conference and the wheelchair-bound theoretical physicist, who became world famous in the 1980s with his book “A Brief History of Time”, acknowledged the decision too with a broad mind.

The communication system has been open sourced by Intel and the system is known as ACAT (Assistive Context Aware Toolkit). ACAT is a result of years of collaboration between Intel and Hawking. Intel believes that the system is highly likely to become the spinal cord of a modern, customisable system, which can now be used for all those who suffer from quadriplegia and motor neurone related disabilities. Hawking said at the press conference that this open source system will help millions of disabled people across the globe. He added further that his old system was 20-years-old now and communicative functions were not very effective anymore.

Now the new system has been a life-changing experience for him and he believes it will serve him for next 20 years too. While speaking, Hawking’s words were relayed by the robotic voice of his computer. At the age of 21 Hawking was diagnosed with a motor neurone disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The communication system will be available online as open source. Hawking teaches at Cambridge University. His currently developed system reduces the number of moves which are required to spell out words and new functions are also allowed like sending email attachments. Intel’s statement adds that Hawking’s typing speed has improved significantly.

The British company SwiftKey has also digitised all his works to help the computer understand more quickly what he is trying to say. In this world, more than three million people are affected by motor neurone disease and quadriplegia and as this system is based on open source software, it can be adapted by many now. It has several functions which are enabled by touch, eye blinks, eyebrow movements and other user inputs too. Hawking demonstrated the new system in public for the first time on Tuesday.

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