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Intel tries to help Stephen Hawking keep talking

January 09, 2012
  • Theoretical astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, shown in a file photo, was too ill to attend his 70th birthday celebration.
Theoretical astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, shown in a file photo, was… (Getty Images )

Intel Corp. is trying to help physicist Stephen Hawking keep speaking.

Intel chief technology officer Justin Rattner told the Associated Press that the tech giant has a research team in Britain that is trying to come up with a new speech system for Hawking, who is severely diasabled by Lou Gehrig's disease. The goal is to keep Hawking's speech from continuing to slow.

It's a tedious process for Hawking to speak. A tiny infrared sensor translates movement in his right cheek into words spoken by a voice synthesizer. And now Hawking is losing the use of the nerves in that cheek.

Rattner was to introduce Hawking on Sunday at the 70th birthday celebration for the renowned theoretical astrophysicist, but Hawking was too ill to attend.

Hawking, author of the bestseller "A Brief History of Time" in 1988, has been honored for his breakthroughs in theories about time and relativity.

Intel has a long history with Hawking. In 1997, Intel engineers developed a notebook computer for Hawking that helped him wirelessly access the Internet and control lights and doors. The system also helped Hawking communicate more easily by accelerating his text-to-voice synthesis software.

"Intel's newest Pentium processor technology keeps me connected to the world," Hawking said at the time. "I must be one of the most connected people in the world, and I can truly say, I'm Intel inside."

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'Fabric of the Cosmos' review: time, space and string theory

Book review: 'The Grand Design' by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow

-- Pat Benson

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