For his Google Science Fair project, 16-year-old Arsh Shah Dilbagi from Panipat, India, invented a device that would allow people suffering from speech impairment or paralysis to communicate using just two different kinds of breaths.
Many of the current augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices used by patients with speech impairments, locked-in syndrome, or ALS can be costly, bulky, and must be customized, which means not everyone can use them. So, the budding roboticist (known to some as Robo) developed a generic, fast, and portable AAC device that’s affordable. He calls it Talk, and it has two major parts: a wearable sensor placed near the nose and a processing unit about the size of a smartphone.
According to Arsh’s project page, Talk converts two kinds of exhales -- distinguishable by their different intensity and duration -- into electrical signals using a microphone chip that senses the pressure of the breaths. The signals are processed by a microprocessor, which labels the short exhales as “dots,” while the longer exhales are labeled as “dashes.” Like binary languages and Morse Code, the two kinds of breaths can be translated into words and sentences. These are then sent to another microprocessor for synthesizing.
Talk has two modes: one to communicate in English and another to say specific commands or phrases. It also has nine different voices for males and females of different ages.
Arsh tested the device with himself, his family, and someone who has Parkinson’s. They were each able to give two distinguishable signals using their breath, and the device had an average accuracy of 99 percent, he says. The final version cost less than $100. He hopes to add auto-predictions to Talk and integrate it with smartphones and Google Glass.
Check out Arsh’s amazing video here!