Professor Stephen Hawking today demonstrated his new open source communication system designed for him by Intel.

The Silicon Valley chip giant claims the system, dubbed ACAT (Assistive Context Aware Toolkit), can be adapted for the three million people worldwide who suffer from quadriplegia and motor neurone disease.

Stephen Hawking using Intel's ACAT system. Image credit: Intel
Stephen Hawking using Intel's ACAT system. Image credit: Intel

The system was jointly designed by Intel and Hawking over the last three years to replace the scientist's existing communication system, with Hawking providing ongoing feedback throughout the product's development. 

"We are pushing the boundaries of what is possible with technology, without it I would not be able to speak to you today," said Hawking speaking at a press conference in London today.

"The development of this system has the the potential to greatly improve the lives of disabled people all over the world," he added. 

"My old system was over 20 years old and I was finding it very difficult to communicate effectively. This new system is life-changing for me and I hope will serve me well for the next 20 years."

Hawking has been able to double his typing rate and improve common tasks by a factor of 10. Intel said the system makes it easier for Hawking to browse the web, make edits, open a new document and switch between applications. 

Meanwhile, the integration of SwiftKey’s typing technology means that the renowned Cambridge professor has to type 20 percent fewer characters overall.

"Professor Hawking uniquely used technology to master communicating with the world for decades, but his old system could be likened to trying to use today's modern apps and websites with a computer without a keyboard or mouse," said Wen-Hann Wang, Intel vice president and Intel Labs managing director. "Together we've delivered a holistically better communication experience that contributes to his continued independence and can help open the door to increased independence for others."

The system can also be controlled by touch, eye blinks, eyebrow movements or other user inputs for communication.

Intel said ACAT will be available to researchers from January next year.