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Hawking’s Voice Radiates Through Time

There is a black hole where once there was an exceptional mind and a man with humor.

Scientist, author, professor, and an inspiration, Stephen Hawking defied the limitations of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and lived a full life. Hawking wrote books, A Brief History of Time has sold over 10 million copies, lectured about cosmology, and was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a position also held by Isaac Newton.

Stephen Hawking – http://www.hawking.org.uk

Despite having limited body movement due to ALS, Hawking had his mind and, thanks to speech technology, a voice.

Without communication technology, the world would have missed Hawking’s insights. Fortunately, Intel developed an infrared sensor that detected cheek movements so Stephen Hawking could select letters on a screen to type out his thoughts.

Stephen Hawking chose NeoSpeech’s VoiceText text-to-speech to be his new voice in 2004. As reported by The New York Times, “His only complaint, he confided, was that the speech synthesizer, manufactured in California, gave him a new vocal inflection. ’Please pardon my American accent,’ he used to say.”

Although it was an American accent, NeoSpeech’s text-to-speech gave Stephen Hawking a clear voice. As noted by SpeechTech Magazine, “’As a scientist and lecturer, it is imperative that Professor Hawking presents his findings in a clear and concise manner,’ said Tom Pelly, Hawking’s technical assistant. ‘Professor Hawking was very impressed by NeoSpeech’s speech synthesizer, as it was by far the most natural-sounding and realistic of all of the off-the-shelf software voices that he has heard. This technology can help ensure that his vocals match his research in terms of credibility and believability.’”

Since 2015, Stephen Hawking’s speech system is open source software so anyone can use his system to communicate. Open source communication technology improves accessibility for others with speech impairments.

Hawking was an inspiration not only to others with ALS, but the world as he showed what you can accomplish with your mind. Just as Stephen Hawking found black holes emit radiation, so too do his words and knowledge radiate around the globe and into the universe.

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