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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Stephen Hawking's computer language published Online !!!

There are thousands of languages spoken by humans ~ besides the sign languages and written languages. There also codes and artificially constructed communication systems, which are also known as languages. The science of human language is perceived to be fundamentally different and much complex from those of other species. Then comes the more complex grammar and syntax.

FORTRAN, COBOL, and ALGOL were created around the 1950s and many variations of these languages were still in use during the early 2000s. “Since 1997, my computer-based communication system has been sponsored and provided by Intel® Corporation.” States a famous person’s website, and adds that the main interface to the computer is through a program called EZ Keys, written by Words Plus Inc. This provides a software keyboard on the screen. A cursor automatically scans across this keyboard by row or by column.  Characters are selected by cheek movements which are detected by an infrared switch that is mounted on spectacles. This switch is the  only interface with the computer. ……. It is too complex to read and understand and to think that somebody is successfully using it, speaks volumes of his greatness.

Faking News interesting wrote that the hit movie Bahubaliis to  be dubbed into Kiliki, the language of Kalakeyas in the movie.  Rajamouli’s Bahubali is impressive – the two-part fantasy epic, has broken box-office records all over, in Tamil and Telugu, along with dubbed Hindi and Malayalam versions.  When a film is a hit, people try to credit it with so many goods.  The dialogue writer claimed that it was a special language, not gibberish, spoken by the warrior hordes headed by warlord Kalakeya– the language, ‘Kiliki’ boasts of a 750-word vocabulary and more than 40 solid grammar rules ! Popular parallels exist in the way of the elaborate Elvish language created by JRR Tolkien for the Lord of the Rings trilogy; and perhaps language of Salamia, in Vikram.  Rubbish, as this is of a different plane !!

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a specific disorder that involves the death of neurons.  The man spoken about in para 2 above, suffers from a rare early-onset slow-progressing form of ALS  that has gradually paralysed him over the decades.  He had experienced increasing clumsiness during his final year at Oxford, including a fall on some stairs and difficulties when rowing.  The problems worsened, and his speech became slightly slurred;  the diagnosis of motor neurone disease came when Hawking was 21, in 1963; at that  time, doctors gave him a life expectancy of two years.  In the late 1960s,  his  physical abilities declined: he began to use crutches and ceased lecturing regularly.  As he slowly lost the ability to write, he developed compensatory visual methods, including seeing equations in terms of geometry.  He preferred to be regarded as "a scientist first, popular science writer second, and, in all the ways that matter, a normal human being with the same desires, drives, dreams, and ambitions as the next person."  His speech too deteriorated and  became unintelligible.

During a visit to the European Organisation for Nuclear Research on the border of France and Switzerland in mid-1985, he contracted pneumonia which in his condition was life-threatening; he was so ill that his wife was asked if life support should be terminated. She refused but the consequence was a tracheotomy, which would require round-the-clock nursing care, and remove what remained of his speech.  Years later, he received a computer program called the "Equalizer" from Walt Woltosz. In a method he uses to this day, using a switch he selects phrases, words or letters from a bank of about 2500–3000 that are scanned; and much later he  activated a switch using his hand and could produce up to 15 words a minute.  Lectures were prepared in advance and were sent to the speech synthesiser in short sections to be delivered. Even that could not last, as in 2005 he lost the use of his hand and began to control his communication device with movements of his cheek muscles,  with a rate of about one word per minute. One cannot read any further of the sufferings.

Now with Intel software, his cheek movements are interpreted in to spoken language. Intel originally developed the technology especially for Hawking but it has been used by other sufferers of motor neurone disease (MND).  Now it is reported that the software by Intel that lets physicist Stephen Hawking communicate via a computer has been published online by the company in the hopes that it will be used by researchers developing new interfaces for sufferers of diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The Assistive Context-Aware Toolkit (ACAT) helps Hawking communicate by interpreting sensor data capturing movements in his cheek muscles but other parts of the body may be used. Anyone can now download and experiment with the system.Intel hopes that ACAT, which runs on Microsoft Windows 7 or higher, will be used by researchers developing new interfaces for sufferers of diseases like ALS.The programme and full source code have been published on code-sharing site GitHub. Lama Nachman, principal engineer, said that the team had already experimented with a variety of different sensors, and they are hoping developers will try out other options suited to each patient’s needs and abilities.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

25th Aug 2015.

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