acat_headerDue to Stephen Hawking’s condition, he relies on a computer to speak for him as you’ve probably seen many times in movies, TV shows, and cartoons where he is depicted. Intel is actually the company behind the software and for those who are interested in taking a peek under its hood, you now can.


Intel has decided to release the software under a free software license, meaning that it is basically open source and developers can go ahead and check it out. Dubbed ACAT (Assistive Context-Aware Toolkit), Intel has described it as “an open source platform developed at Intel Labs to enable people with motor neuron diseases and other disabilities to have full access to the capabilities and applications of their computers through very constrained interfaces suitable for their condition.”

That being said now that the software has become open source, what does this mean? For the end-user probably not much, but for developers it means that it will allow them to create a system that is similar to what Stephen Hawking uses. It might not be 100% the same and depending on the ideas, it could even be improved upon.

As it stands ACAT is only available for Windows machines so developers using Macs are out of luck. It will also require a webcam as it relies on visual cues to understand commands. Intel’s principal engineer Lama Nachman says, “Our vision is to enable any developer or researcher who can bring in value in sensing, UI, word prediction, context awareness, etc. to build on top of this, and not have to reinvent the wheel since it is a large effort to do this.”

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