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How Does Stephen Hawking Talk? The Science Behind Hawking's Voice


Who Was Stephen Hawking?

Stephen Hawking was a cosmologist and theoretical physicist from the United Kingdom. He is well-known for his current ideas, including black holes and time travel. Hawking had a slow-progressing motor neuron illness called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It led him to spend his life in a wheelchair.

Hawking, on the other hand, was able to communicate with others through the use of modern technology. Intel, which replaces its computers every two years, created the connection device for Hawking's use. Hawking is a huge source of inspiration for people all across the world. This article describes the various tools Hawking used when giving public speeches.

What Happened To Stephan Hawking?

We're all familiar with the sight of Stephan Hawking in a wheelchair, delivering pre-recorded lectures. So, what caused him to be confined to a wheelchair? The answer is simple: he had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It was a rare kind of motor neuron disease that started early and progressed slowly. It damages the brain and spinal cord, and it has rendered him paralyzed for several years. People lose control of their voluntary muscles as a result of it.

How Did Stephan Hawking Talk After Being Diagnosed With ALS?

Hawking was a member of Oxford's rowing team. During his final year at Oxford, he discovered clumsiness. In 1963, when he was 21 years old, doctors diagnosed him with ALS and gave him a two-year life expectancy. His ability to write gradually diminished and his speech degraded. His family and close friends first assisted him in making his speeches understandable. He developed Pneumonia during his vacation to Cern in 1985 and had to have a tracheotomy, which took away his ability to talk.

Initially, Hawking chose letters on a spelling card with his brows and slowly composed words. The Equalizer was software developed by Words Plus, a California-based company. It aided Hawking's use of a hand clicker to pick words. His wheelchair was equipped with a portable system. Hawking was able to transmit 15 words per minute using this setup.

Hawking's ability to utilize his hand deteriorated with time. A cheek switch was discovered by his graduate assistant. When he clenched his cheek muscle, an infrared beam from his glass recognized his thoughts. It enabled him to send emails and deliver lectures using a single facial muscle. Lectures are recorded and sent to a speech synthesizer in advance.

“I have noticed that even those who assert that everything is predestined and that we can change nothing about it still look both ways before they cross the street.”

— Stephen Hawking, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays

Stephen Hawking took the Zero Gravity Flight that let him float out of his wheelchair for the first time in four decades

Stephen Hawking took the Zero Gravity Flight that let him float out of his wheelchair for the first time in four decades

How Does Stephen Hawking's Speaking Device Work?

Hawking is the author of various books, including some for children. We must have all heard one of his speeches at some point. His talks are usually pre-recorded. He made use of a speech synthesizer. His speaking apparatus is made up of three parts:

1. Feeder

It's the most difficult part of his speech for him to deliver. He hasn't been able to use most of his muscles since he lost them. It was difficult for him to communicate his thoughts. To provide input, he used a variety of devices such as spelling cards, hand clickers, and cheek switches.

2. Interface

The feeder comes with the computer that is fixed in his wheelchair. Hawking may choose from a list of words displayed on the monitor by tweaking his muscle. He'll make sentences by picking words out of a hat one by one. It also features an auto-complete capability similar to that seen on our cellphones.

3. Output

It comes with a speech synthesizer that speaks the statement when it's finished. Dennis Klatt, an MIT engineer, created DECtalk, a device that converts text into voice. He first tested with his voice, which is known as perfect paul. Hawking's voice is now perfect paul.

How Intel Helped Stephen Hawking to Speak?

At a meeting in 1997, Hawking met Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel. Gordon became aware of Hawking's communication device. He then proposed to provide superior technology to Hawking. Since 1997, Intel has given hawking with customized PCs and technical support, changing its machine every two years.

Hawking lost his capacity to select words with his hands in 2008. Intel put together a team of experts to help Hawking improve his speaking skills. They experimented with a variety of technologies, including gaze tracking and facial gesture detection, before settling on ASTER. ASTER has a few advanced features, such as the back button. Hawking, on the other hand, found it perplexing and torturous.

Later, an in-depth examination of Hawking's movements and earlier communication gadgets aided Intel in developing ACAT (Assistive Context-Aware Toolkit). Email, speak, and search and new menus and shortcuts are available in ACAT. It aided him in interacting efficiently. Intel has a significant impact on Hawking's life. ACAT was also released open-source so that persons with disabilities may use it.

Stephen Hawking Collaborated with his daughter Lucy hawking to write child fiction novels

Stephen Hawking Collaborated with his daughter Lucy hawking to write child fiction novels

"However difficult life may seem there is always something you can do and succeed at. Good luck to you all…”.

— Stephen hawking during 2012 Paralympics in London

Stephen Hawking: A Role Model to The World

Interaction designer Pete Denman sought to improve Hawking's communication. Denman was crippled following a neck injury and was heartbroken until his mother brought him a copy of A Brief History of Time. He learned that those who are confined to wheelchairs can do incredible feats. Hawking is a true role model for everyone. Despite his physical limitations, he constantly stood in front of his realm.

He is a true genius and a living embodiment of the phrase "Never Give Up." His speeches may take some time to reach the rest of the globe, but his ideas are always far beyond them. He was a true genius who lived during our time. Thank you for being an inspiration to us, Stephen. You will always be fondly remembered.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Jagatheesh Aruchami