People who are suffering from movement and speech impairments such as ALS or Parkinson’s have to make use of specialised computer systems in order to talk and this usually cost quite a fortune. This is where the hero of today’s story comes in; a 16 year old Indian student has come up with a device that is capable of accomplishing the same task such as those high tech devices. The good part is, those machines can cost $7,000-10,000 whereas this one will cost only $80. The gadget has been named TALK by Arsh Shah Dilbagi since that is what it will allow the users to accomplish.
TALK works using a $25 Arduino microcontroller while also making use of a few other components. It uses a MEMS microphone that is positioned just under the nose. The mic is highly sensitive and consists of pressure-sensitive diaphragms that have been etched to the microchip directly. The system is, therefore, sensitive enough to be able to detect the difference between a long breath and a short breath. With this, we come to how this device works.
So, the long and short breathes are interpreted as dots and dashes in Morse code by the Arduino and this allows the user to spell out the word with a few breaths. The decoded words are then transferred to an embedded voice synthesizer that is capable of speaking in different tones – based on user’s preference. Dilbagi worked with a neurologist in New Delhi so as to test TALK and worked with a patient suffering from Parkinson’s disease. The tests were successful as the system was able to interpret the dots and dashes to form words with accuracy.
Devices such as TALK, the assistive communication devices, are usually far more advanced. However, the advantage that TALK has over such devices is the advantage of being really cheap. The only downside is that the patients will have to learn Morse code which we believe shouldn’t be much of a hassle unless of course they can pay for the high end gadgets.