Volume 2 Issue 23 - December 01, 2004

Local scientist writing software for Prof Hawking

DNIS News Network - An ex-I.I.T. alumni is helping Prof Hawking improve the software that he currently uses to communicate, read and write.

When Dr. Arun Mehta, an old student of I.I.T., started improving the eLocutor, his four-year-old voice synthesising software; he didn't know how far it could go.

The project was revived after globally famous scientist Stephen Hawking approached Mehta for help with the software that he currently uses to communicate, read and write.

Mehta is all set to customise the software, knowing it could end up being Hawking's only means to interact with the world.

“Prof. Hawking contacted us, among several other software companies. He was looking for someone to write the replacement for his current software, of which he is the only known user alive,” says Mehta.

Mehta is now planning to use the eLocutor in an IT institute for disabled people, which he plans to set up. He claims, “eLocutor can train any disabled person how to make smart, life-improving gadgets.” All you need to use the eLocutor is a finger that moves -- everything else involving reading, writing or communicating is taken care of by the machine."

Believing disabled people will definitely enjoy the freedom it offers, Mehta says, “Programming isn't that hard. Though not everyone takes to it, I doubt if the percentages are different among the disabled, partly because their career choices are limited and it might give a harder look. Besides, if someone is writing software to improve her or his own life, motivation will be higher.”

The ‘IT-for-disabled' institute is in progress but the courseware has already been largely set. It will train a mix of students, including both disabled and non-disabled people, in hardware, software and machine design, so that they may eventually choose to start manufacturing devices or find employment.

First on Mehta's wish list is to see his students develop IT tools for the disabled. “After all, the competition for such tools is priced exorbitantly,” he says.

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