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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 November, 2004, 12:11 GMT
Global hopes for Stephen Hawking software
By Shubranshu Choudhary in Delhi

A leading Indian software engineer says he hopes the global scientific community can benefit from work he is doing for the paralysed physicist Stephen Hawking.

Professor Hawking, who became an international celebrity with his book A Brief History Of Time, is working with Delhi-based software developer Arun Mehta.

Stephen Hawking
Hawking approached Arun Mehta
Dr Mehta is leading a team developing software to help Professor Hawking who is suffering from the degenerative motor neurone disease.

Victims of motor neuron disease lose all muscle tone in their body.

For years now Stephen Hawking has been confined to a wheel-chair and has been using a special kind of custom-made software developed in order to help him communicate.

This specially designed software tries to predict what the user wishes to type or do next.

Communication through the use of this software is made possible by the pressing of a single computer button attached to Professor Hawking's wheel chair, this button being his ticket to interact, move around, write and speak.

As his disorder intensifies, he is looking to upgrade the software to combat the disease.

Universal appeal

This is where Dr Arun Mehta comes into the picture.

I am developing this as an open source software so that scientists all over the world can work on this platform and modify it according to specific requirements
Arun Mehta
Dr Mehta and Professor Hawking have already met three times at Cambridge University, where the professor is based.

"Meeting Stephen Hawking is an experience in itself, and a life changing one at that," Dr Mehta says.

Not only is it a personal honour to be in a position to help someone of Professor Hawking's stature, it is a matter of pride for the entire Indian scientific community that this opportunity and honour has been bestowed upon us.

"I am developing this as an open source software so that scientists all over the world can work on this platform and modify it according to specific requirements," he added.

This project will become the basis of a platform to develop software for people with all kinds of disabilities in the near future.

What is unique about Dr Mehta's platform is that it can be used by people with the most serious disabilities who may otherwise have little hope of communicating and interacting with others.




SEE ALSO:
'No evidence' of Hawking assault
29 Mar 04  |  Cambridgeshire
Hawking takes top book prize
25 Jun 02  |  Science/Nature


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