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Professor Hawking Moves To Blink-Control Device
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 16, 2005

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND--For the last two months, Professor Stephen Hawking has taught at Cambridge University using a device that turns his blinks into computer commands.

Hawking, a professor of Mathematics, is the author of the best-selling book "A Brief History of Time". He has had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a form of motor neuron disease more commonly known as 'Lou Gehrig's Disease", for more than 41 years -- longer than anyone else in the country. When he was first diagnosed, doctors expected him to live just two years.

Considered by many to be the greatest scientist of his time, Hawking is paralyzed except for some fingers on one hand that until recently he has used to operate a computerized voice box.

"His hand has been slowing down," David Pond, Professor Hawking's graduate assistant, told the BBC. "He wants to fight all the way but he recognizes he needs a better way to communicate."

Hawking has been learning to use an Infrared Sound Touch switch that is attached to his glasses and is aimed at his cheek. The device watches Hawking's cheek muscle for movement. When he closes his eye to blink, the muscle moves and sends an infrared beam to the computer, which changes the signal into a computer command, much like a computer mouse.

"He started using the switch two months ago," explained Pond. "It's very simple to use and it's going really well."

Hawking's January 2001 visit to India inadvertently prompted changes in how many in the country viewed wheelchair accessibility. Officials that had invited the esteemed scientist to speak at several Indian universities were highly embarrassed when their guest had to be carried from place to place because of a lack of wheelchair ramps.

Infrared/Sound/Touch (IST) Switch (Words Plus)


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