Intel exploring ways to help Stephen Hawking speak

Jan 09, 2012 By RAPHAEL SATTER , Associated Press
In this June 19, 2006 file photo Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking speaks at an international gathering of scientists on the origins of the universe at Beijing's Great Hall of the People in China. British scientist Stephen Hawking has decoded some of the most puzzling mysteries of the universe but he has left one mystery for others to explain: How he managed to survive so long with such a crippling disease. The physicist and cosmologist was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, or motor neuron disease, when he was a 21-year-old student at Cambridge University. Most people die within a few years of the disease being identified. On Sunday, Hawking will turn 70.(AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel-File)

Intel Corp. is looking for ways to help famed British physicist Stephen Hawking reverse the slowing of his speech, according to a senior executive with the American chipmaker.

Hawking was 21 when he was diagnosed Lou Gehrig's disease, an incurable that has left him almost completely paralyzed. While an attached to his glasses translates the pulses in his right cheek into words spoken by a , the nerves in his face have deteriorated and those close to him say his rate of has slowed to about a word a minute.

Speaking late Sunday on the sidelines of a conference celebrating Hawking's 70th birthday in the English city of Cambridge, Intel Justin Rattner said his company had a team in England to explore ways to help the celebrity scientist communicate more quickly.

"This is a research project," Rattner told The Associated Press, saying the team's task was to gather data for further study.

Hawking has gained world renown as an expert on cosmology and the author of a best-selling series of books popularizing the field of theoretical astrophysics. His achievements have been all the more remarkable because of his condition. Most of those with Lou Gehrig's disease die within two to five years of their diagnosis, but Hawking has spent nearly half a century carrying out pioneering research work.

Finding ways to keep Hawking communicating has long been a challenge. Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, attacks the cells that control muscles - leading to weakness, slurred speech and paralysis.

Hawking managed to overcome his deteriorating speech for a while by dictating scientific papers to a secretary, or speaking through an interpreter. He lost his voice entirely after a in 1985, and a computer was built to synthesize his speech in a distinctive, robotic monotone that has since become almost as famous as the scientist himself.

At first, Hawking retained some limited hand movement and could manage about 15 words a minute. Now that even the nerves in Hawking's cheek are beginning to fade, Rattner argued it was time for a new approach - saying that solutions based on brainwaves or eye tracking were among the technologies being considered.

But Rattner said his best bet was on high definition cameras that pick up on the minute movements in Hawking's face to synthesize his speech.

"My wager is some form of facial feature recognition will unlock it for Stephen," he said.

Rattner did not give any specific timeframe for the company's work, and Intel didn't immediately respond to a request for further information.

The Santa Clara, California-based company has long provided Hawking with many of his technological needs - including an upgrade of his speech software and the connection that links his wheelchair-mounted computer to the Internet.

Explore further: E-Voting: Risky technology or great improvement?

More information: Stephen Hawking's website: http://www.hawking.org.uk/

5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hawking files for divorce

Oct 20, 2006

Stephen Hawking, best-selling author of "A Brief History of Time," and his wife have filed for divorce in England.

Stephen Hawking celebrates 70th birthday

Jan 08, 2012

British scientist Stephen Hawking celebrated his 70th birthday Sunday, an age many experts never expected the motor neurone disease sufferer to reach.

Stephen Hawking to turn 70, defying disease

Jan 05, 2012

British scientist Stephen Hawking has decoded some of the most puzzling mysteries of the universe but he has left one mystery unsolved: How he has managed to survive so long with such a crippling disease.

Recommended for you

Audi to develop Tesla Model S all-electric rival

11 hours ago

The Tesla Model S has a rival. Audi is to develop all-electric family car. This is to be a family car that will offer an all-electric range of 280 miles (450 kilometers), according to Auto Express, which ...

A green data center with an autonomous power supply

17 hours ago

A new data center in the United States is generating electricity for its servers entirely from renewable sources, converting biogas from a sewage treatment plant into electricity and water. Siemens implemented ...

After a data breach, it's consumers left holding the bag

18 hours ago

Shoppers have launched into the holiday buying season and retailers are looking forward to year-end sales that make up almost 20% of their annual receipts. But as you check out at a store or click "purchase" on your online shopping cart ...

Can we create an energy efficient Internet?

18 hours ago

With the number of Internet connected devices rapidly increasing, researchers from Melbourne are starting a new research program to reduce energy consumption of such devices.

Brain inspired data engineering

19 hours ago

What if next-generation ICT systems could be based on the brain's structure and its cognitive and adaptive processes? A groundbreaking paradigm of brain-inspired intelligent ICT architectures is being born.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Xbw
2 / 5 (8) Jan 09, 2012
In my opinion, I think this should be a research project for every university out there in collaboration with each other. There is no more a noble goal than helping this man communicate. He is quite possibly the Einstein of our generation and we should thank him by doing everything we can to assist him.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.