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Intel aims to give Stephen Hawking back his voice

Posting in Technology

Through advances in technology, Intel hopes to improve Hawking's ever-declining ability to communicate.

The semiconductor chip maker claims that with recent breakthroughs, it may be possible to increase renowned physicist Stephen Hawking's ability to "speak" though technology, which in recent times has declined to a single word per minute.

Currently, Hawking uses technology provided by Intel to communicate. A computer detects how the professor twitches his cheek, and then this in turn moves a cursor across letters and words on a screen that Hawking can choose to be relayed through the voice piece. However, this is a very slow process, and combined with Lou Gehrig's disease -- a motor neuron condition that causes progressive weakness and muscle atrophy -- things are becoming more and more difficult.

The Santa Clara, California-based firm says that it may be possible to ramp up Hawking's computerized voice back up to at least ten words per minute by using morse code and updated software complete with better word prediction and a new character-driven interface.

According to Scientific American, Intel chief technology officer Justin Rattner said at CES that as Hawking is not limited in facial expressions, there is a possibility that software could be developed in order to allow the physicist to more quickly communicate.

Photo Credit: p_c_w

— By on January 20, 2013, 9:00 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure