Stephen Hawking, a disabled theoretical physicist, has
decided to make his communications system available online as 'open source'
from January, although it would still have to be adapted for individual users.
This move could help millions of motor neuron disease sufferers and greatly
improve the life of disabled people all over the world.
Stephen Hawking, who teaches at the Cambridge University, shot
to international fame in the 1980s with his book 'A Brief History of Time',
hailed the decision by US tech giant Intel at a press conference in London. He
was diagnosed with a motor neurone disease related to amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis (ALS) at the age of 21 years.
Hawking can write on his computer using a cheek sensor which
is detected by an infrared switch mounted to his glasses and helps him select
characters. His current system, developed by Intel, reduces the number of moves
needed to spell out words, as well as giving him new functions for the first
time such as sending email attachments. 72 year old Hawking, who is almost
entirely paralysed, demonstrated this new system in public on Tuesday. He said,
"Medicine has not been able to cure me, so I rely on technology to help me
communicate and live."
British company SwiftKey has digitized all his works to help
the computer guess more quickly what he is trying to say. In a statement to the
press, Intel said, "Hawking's typing speed is twice as fast and there is a
tenfold improvement in common tasks."