British physicist Stephen Hawking is slowly losing his ability to speech through a computerized interface as the muscles used in his face to operate the program continue to fail. Realizing the scientists need to speak a group of Intel Corp. engineers are looking for new technologies that could advance his speech capabilities.
Diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease as the age of 21 the now 70-year-old scientist uses a special infrared laser attached to his glasses to communicate using pulses from his right cheek, however the nerves in his face have deteriorated to the point where people close to him say he’s only talking at approximately one word per minute.
While most people diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease die within 2-5 years Hawking has lived with the disease for nearly 50 years despite constant attacks on the cells that control his muscles.
For the first part of his diagnosis Hawking managed to overcome his disease by dictating notes to a secretary and through the use of an interpreter. In 1985 Hawking lost his voice completely and used a synthesized voice machine with a trademark robotic monotone sound that is now recognized around the world. Using that machine Hawking could type approximately 15 words per minute.
According to Intel they were asked to gather information for further study but have not yet decided on a course of action. Intel plans to investigate the use of brainwaves or eye tracking technology to create a new form of communication for Hawking and other people suffering from paralysis.
Intel says its best bet however would be a high definition camera that can pick up even the smallest of facial gestures.
A timeframe for a new product has not yet been revealed.