Stephen Hawking’s speech platform received a much-needed upgrade thanks to Intel and SwiftKey. His old speech system was more than 20 years old and was difficult for him to communicate effectively.

“With the improvements made I am now able to write much faster and it means I can continue to give lectures, write papers and books, and meet with my family and friends more easily,” Hawking told reporters.

“This new system is life-changing for me and I hope it will serve me well for the next 20 years.”

Part of this new system is Intel’s ACAT (Assistive Context Aware Toolkit) platform. By using an infrared switch mounted on his glasses, Hawking’s speech rate has doubled. Tasks such as finding a computer file are 10 times faster to complete on Hawking’s new system compared to his decades old system.

SwiftKey’s predictive text algorithms, similar to the one found in your smart phone, are also featured in the new speech platform. Words can be selected after entering just a few letters. This will drastically improve communications for people with neurological diseases and other disabilities which hamper speech.

Intel and SwiftKey will make the software available to the public early next year.

“By making this technology freely available it has the potential to greatly improve the lives of disabled people all over the world,” Hawking said.

Hawking suffers from a motor neuron disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS. The disease has left him almost entirely paralyzed. But, the new system from Intel and SwiftKey has increased his communication rate from just one word per minute to two.

“Professor Hawking uniquely used technology to master communicating with the world for decades, but his old system could be likened to trying to use today’s modern apps and websites with a computer without a keyboard or mouse,” said Intel Vice President Wen-Hann Wang.

“Together we’ve delivered a holistically better communication experience that contributes to his continued independence and can help open the door to increased independence for others.”

Image credit: SwiftKey blog

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