ACAT software open source

Stephen Hawking’s Speech Software Now Available Open Source & Free Online

The software used by Professor Stephen Hawking to allow him to communicate has been released by Intel and is available free online. The company hopes that developers will take the software and innovate, expanding on the base system to assist others with similar disabilities.

Hawking, 73, has suffered for years from ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a motor neuron disease which left him almost completely paralyzed. He relies on the speech software to be able to communicate as well as to browse the Internet and Stephen Hawking received an upgrade last year from Intel which increased the efficiency of the system.

According to Time, what is dubbed Assistive Context-Aware Toolkit, or ACAT, has been around three years in the making and the software will be available for others suffering from similar diseases to Stephen Hawking. It will allow them to communicate with others and lead a more normal life.

Stephen Hawking
The ACAT in use by Professor Stephen Hawking

The way it works is to allow the user to communicate by translating facial movements into text. Input is via an infrared sensor or by webcam and the ACAT system selects letters to form the words and a virtual keyboard allows users to choose from various applications or merely browse the web.

Other applications for the software are currently being explored by Intel and the company is working with users and patients to test the system.

The latest upgrade to the ACAT system works in a similar way to the predictive features of an iPhone and allows the software to predict what Stephen Hawking is attempting to say, based on what has already been typed.

According to The Next Web, while the software is now available for free download, there is just one downside, as the ACAT system is for use with a PC only. Developers will need a PC running Windows XP or higher and at present there are no plans for the system to work on Macs.

According to a post by Sai Prasad, the project owner, Intel hopes developers will now take the ACAT system and develop something broader, “by adding new user interfaces, new sensing modalities, word prediction and many other features” to assist people with disabilities similar to those of Professor Stephen Hawking when communicating via text.

For those wishing to take the system further, the ACAT software and user guide for the system is now available on Github.

An episode of 10 Questions with Time and Stephen Hawking is included below.

In other news relating to Stephen Hawking on the Inquisitr, he, Elon Musk and other tech giants have recently warned about the dangers of “killer robots” with AI.

[Photo: by Tim P. Whitby / Getty Images Entertainment / Screen showing ACAT software in use screengrab from YouTube video]

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