AAC Technology behind Stephen Hawking Communication

We all know about Stephen Hawking one of the greatest scientists in our history who acknowledge us with so many facts about our universe. We all know that he was diagnosed with an early-onset slow-progressing form of motor neuron disease that gradually paralyzed him over the decades.

Then how he can Communicate so well ……????

Stephen Hawking was using a high-tech communication system known as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). It gives him access to communicate like humans by reading his brain signals, chick bone movement, eyebrow, eye movement, and the facial expressions. It works not only through the interaction of the user with their device but also through their interactions with communication partners.

Today, many Australians who need AAC still not able to access this technology and the support they need to use it. It’s time for that to change.

Key Features of AAC includes

  • Sign and gesture systems
  • Communication boards
  • Speech-generating devices
  • Mobile phones with apps
  • Emojis and social media

AAC technology can be used in different ways

  1. Some types of AAC don’t involve technology at all but use the person’s body, such as sign or gesture systems.
  2. Some AAC systems are non-electronic, like communication boards, books, or wallet or look at letters, words or phrases to communicate.
  3. Other types of AAC are known as “high-tech”.In it, they involve electronic systems and computer-based technologies. It can both stores and retrieve words for communication.

 How Augmentative and Alternative communication works want to know so here it is…

INPUT–  In the Hawking’s communication system there are three major components. In which  First was the input, which also happened to be the most challenging element in Hawking’s case. This was accomplished by an infrared switch mounted on his spectacles that caught the slightest twitches or movements in his cheek.

INSIDE– The next part involves forming words using the input from the infrared switch.

  • This interface is a program called EZ Keys which is developed by Words Plus Inc. It provides a software keyboard that’s displayed on a tablet computer and stagged on one arm of his wheelchair, which is powered by the wheelchair batteries.
  • In between that The software moves a cursor across the keyboard by either moving through columns or rows.  after that when it reaches on the desired word, Hawking could stop it with a twitch of his cheek.

OUTPUT THE LOUD SPEAK- The last part, and the easiest one is speaking the complete sentence out loud. For this, Stephen Hawking used a speech synthesizer which was developed by Speech+ that spoke the sentence once it had been approved or completed.

You should also know, What he can do more with this machine through AAC TECHNOLOGY

This machine didn’t just let him talk but also allowed him to do lots of other tasks as well.

He can also check his email, browse the Internet, make notes and can use Skype to chat with friends.

Hawking could give lectures and interact with people without much difficulty using this communication system.

Intel is working on improving this communication system for enhancing the number of the task it can perform.


Making AAC accessible to all

Stephen Hawking knew his uniqueness in having access to the equipment and the social supports he needed to participate but Unfortunately many people in the country who need AAC lack access. It’s not only because of the money they need for the technology but also to the professionals, such as speech pathologists, who know how to use communication systems.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics evaluates that as many as 1.2 million Australians have some kind of communication disability problem. These come in the cerebral palsy and autism disorders and being unable to rely on speech to communicate so it is necessary that more is done to improve access to AAC worldwide.

Like all other people, we know that Stephen Hawking was unique. It’s time to make communication systems available for all who need it so that they too can have their chance to shine.

Source Credit- Moxieminer

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