Indian Teen Invents an Affordable Device That Helps the Speechless Speak
A 16-year old boy, Arsh Shah Dilbagi, has developed a device that helps people with developmental disabilities, like Locked-In Syndrome and ALS, to communicate using only their breath. Dilbagi entered Google’s Global Science Fair to showcase his device and became the only finalist from Asia to get selected this year.
The device which he calls ‘TALK’, turns the breath into signal which are read by Morse code and then converted into speech. A student of 11th standard at DAV International School, Panipat, Arsh claims that the device even allows almost entirely speech impaired and paralyzed people to communicate like never before.
The devices like this, which comes under Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device category, are usually very expensive like the kind used by physicist Stephen Hawking. However, TALK will be the world’s cheapest and fastest AAC. Dilbagi says it is not possible for all those who have motor-neuro disabilities to afford an AAC device that costs $7,000 (Rs 4.26 lakh).
“AAC devices available in the market are very expensive, slow, bulky and not generic. I decided to find a better solution — an AAC device which is faster, portable and generic and costs only $80 (Rs 5,000), making it affordable to the large population,” he explains.
Dilbagi further explained that TALK expects a person to be able to give two distinguishable exhales with varying intensities, for converting them into electrical signals using a microphone. The signals are processed by a microprocessor, called the ‘Morse engine’, which labels the short exhales as ‘dots’ and longer exhales as ‘dashes’. These are further interpreted through the Morse code which converts the signals into words and then sends them to another microprocessor for synthesizing them into voice. According to Dilbagi, TALK features two modes – one to communicate in English, and the other to give specific commands and phrases. These are communicated in nine different voices enabled according to gender and age.
“I even got predicted results by testing the device on a person suffering from encephalopathy (global brain dysfunction) and Parkinson’s disease,” he has claimed in his proposal to Google. He adds, “In the future, I would like to add auto-predictions to my computing engine and integrate TALK with modern technology like Google Glass to make it easier for people with developmental disabilities.”
This kind of invention shows how this country has capable minds who can produce incredible innovation. So if you think you have a great idea, get on it. Doesn’t matter what your age is or where you come from. As long as you have a great idea, you trust it and are ready to undertake dedicated hard work, you can, “Change the World”. However, we cannot help but think how boring Hector Salamanca from Breaking Bad would have been if he had this device, it’s good that guy only had a bell to blow up.