Technology has for long been the best friend of the mankind. It is the one thing that the humans have created to help themselves do things faster and in a more efficient way. And, what can be considered as one of the best example of this, is the The Assistive Context-Aware Toolkit (ACAT) speech system being used by the Stephen Hawking.
The ACAT speech system was especially created for Mr. Hawking, who suffers from ALS. The speech system helps him to ease his communications by translating his facial movements into text.
The software which took some three years to perfect — facilitates the use of computers by people with physical conditions that limit their movements. What comes as a great gift from Intel, the software giant responsible for creating this magnificent piece of software, the speech system is now available to the public for free as open source code.
ACAT is useful for Microsoft Windows developers who are interested in developing assistive technologies to people with ALS or similar disabilities. Also for researchers who are working on new user interfaces, new sensing modalities or word prediction and wanting to explore these innovations in the this community.
The software works by using visual cues from a user’s face to understand the person’s commands. It can take input either from a webcam or an infrared sensor. After taking the inputs, the system selects letters to form words, while the software predicts from what the user types. Further, there’s a virtual keyboard that lets the users select various applications or browse the net.
This ACAT toolkit was developed in C# using Microsoft Visual Studio* 2012 and .NET 4.5. It runs on Microsoft Windows 7 or newer and is distributed under the Apache License, Version 2.0.
According to Intel’s Sai Prasad, the project’s owner, by making the software open, the software giant is hoping that all the developers out there will jump to the opportunity to build similar systems “by adding new user interfaces, new sensing modalities, word prediction and many other features”.
But, there’s just one disadvantage, the software is only available for the PC owners running Windows XP or higher right now.
One can download the application here.