Loss of ability to speak since 1985, how did Stephen Hawking talk to the world?

Let's meet

Meet Stephen Hawking's "voice", which represented Hawking in public for more than half a century.

Stephen Hawking met Gordon Moore , co-founder of Intel at a conference in 1997. Mr. Moore realized that Hawking was using a computer to talk to people around, a machine with an AMD processor . Gordon Moore asked Stephen Hawking that he wanted a " real computer" , with an Intel microprocessor .

And from that moment until now, Intel has become a computer supplier and took responsibility for technical support for Hawking's life. Every two years, they replace computers for the late physicist Stephen Hawking.

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Intel became the computer supplier and took on the responsibility of technical support for Hawking's life.

In 1985, Hawking lost his ability to speak after an operation to save his life. In a short period of time, he had to use spelling boards to talk, raising an eyebrow to pick out the right letters, to form sentences.

Martin King, a physicist with Hawking, designed a new communications system, contacted the Words Plus company, the company has a computer program called Equalizer that allows users to choose words and commands. the computer is just a button away.

Initially, Equalizer ran on an Apple II computer, attached to a voice-generating device designed by Speech Plus.

The system was redesigned by David Mason, the first husband of Stephen Hawking's second wife. He made a system attached to Hawking's armrest. With this new device, Hawking can talk at speeds of 15 words per minute.

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Stephen Hawking in 1986.

But Hawking's illness was getting worse. In 2008, Hawking could not press the talk button anymore. His assistant created a device called "cheek switch" , attached to Hawking's glasses. Using infrared, it tracks Hawking's cheek muscles, allowing him to write emails, surf the web and even write books. However, Hawking's ability to control the engine was reduced, and in 2011, Hawking could only say 2 words per minute. He sent a letter to Gordon Moore, asking if Intel could help him.

Moore asked Justin Ratter, the current CTO of Intel, to see what they could do. Rattner convened an expert group on human-machine interaction to solve the problem."We will cleverly apply the most advanced technology to improve Stephen's communication speed , " Rattner promised to help Hawking regain the speed of conversation he had ever had before.

The five-person research team, led by Horst Haussecker, director of the Experimental Technology Laboratory, met Stephen Hawking, introducing his project. They continued their speech for 20 minutes when suddenly, Hawking spoke out.

"He welcomed us and expressed that he was very happy because we were there to help him," said Pete Denman, a designer on the team, who also had to use a wheelchair because of paralysis. , remember. "We did not know that he had spent the last few hours typing. He took 20 minutes to type out a 30-word thank you. We suddenly stopped. It was a full moment. We realize that this problem is more complicated than I thought. "

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This is Hawking's "voice" in 1999.

At that time, Hawking's computer interface was a program called EZ Keys , an improved version of the previous software and was also designed by Word Plus. It has a virtual keyboard and an algorithm to guess basic words. EZ Keys also allowed Hawking to use the mouse to manipulate Windows, to surf the web in Firefox and to write lessons on Notepad. He also has a webcam to use Skype.

But to create an interface for a weak human being, it is a huge obstacle. The research team offers the latest and most modern solutions that have not been applied in many places but are not effective. The eye tracking software failed to work because Hawking's gaze couldn't be caught when his eyelids collapsed like that. The EEG does not catch a strong enough signal from Hawking's brain to rely on to control the computer.

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Hawking himself is a perfectionist.

The more they listened and listened to what Hawking revealed, the more they understood that he not only wanted to talk faster, but also wanted to interact better with his computer. After much experimentation, they obtained a final upgrade version: a "backward" button, which not only allowed Hawking to delete the written word, but also took a step back and did it on the machine; an advanced word guessing algorithm; A system selects from improvements.

Hawking himself is a perfectionist. He did not want every sentence he wrote just enough for people to understand, he needed every word to be perfect. Therefore, Denman thinks that the most important improvement is to avoid Hawking typing wrong words. If he had to type again and again, and still type wrongly, Hawking would be tired of contacting.

Initially, Hawking really liked this new interface. But then, the new problem appeared: it was too complicated."He is one of the smartest individuals in the world but we are not allowed to forget that he has not used modern technology," Denman said. "We are trying to guide the world's most intelligent and famous 72-year-old man to come into contact with modern technology."

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Months later, Intel created a software that was just as appealing to Hawking.

They set up a system to record the entire process of using Hawking's computer: a 10-hour video showed how Hawking typed the word, typed it when tired, used the mouse, pulled the size of any window."I watched it over and over again, " Denman said. They made a new system, but soon became a "extreme" with Hawking: it still didn't suit him.

Months later, they created a software that was just as appealing to Hawking. It has a system that guesses the new word coming from SwiftKey. It must combine with Intel's information to complete this system, because Hawking is accustomed to predicting what his familiar system predicts.

Besides, it has a series of shortcuts that allow Hawking to perform various tasks such as speaking, searching or composing email; a lecture control software. It also has a sound shortcut, allowing Hawking . to say no more.

Because the system observes Hawking's face, so in him to eat or move, the machine will emit miscellaneous words. However, Hawking sometimes enjoyed this miscellaneous "feature" : he used to tease others with this system. Hawking's assistant Jonathan Wood recalled that he once knocked "xxxx" on the system and when it came out, people would sound like Hawking was saying " sex sex sex".

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Hawking enjoyed his computer voice.

Hawking enjoyed his computer voice. In 1988, when Speech Plus gave him a new voice other than the original voice he still used, he offered to give him an old voice.

His voice was created by engineer Dennis Klatt in the 1980s, which was one of the first systems to translate text into speech. Hawking's voice is called "Perfect Paul - Perfect Paul".

The research team also plans to make further improvements: as a wheelchair driver system using Hawking's chin.

But perhaps, Hawking had no chance of using them anymore: Stephen Hawking died on the morning of March 14, 2018 in Vietnam time. But that advanced chair, Hawking's theories, Hawking's contributions to science will still be his lasting symbol of humanity.

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