A 16-year-old Arsh Shah Dilbagi from India has designed a device that can convert breath into speech. Dubbed TALK, it is touted as a portable and affordable way to aid people suffering from ALS, locked-in syndrome, and anyone else speech-impaired or paralyzed.
Prototyped using a basic $25 Arduino microcontroller, the invention costs only $80 to make, which is roughly hundred times less than the sort of communication device used by Stephen Hawking.
TALK can translate breath into electric signals relying on a MEMS Microphone, that uses a diaphragm etched directly onto a silicon microchip.TALK does its magic by translating breath into electric signals relying on a MEMS Microphone, that uses a diaphragm etched directly onto a silicon microchip. The user is expected to be able to give two distinguishable exhales, varying in intensity or time, that are then translated into words with Morse code. A second microprocessor kicks in at that time, synthesizing Morse code them into voice, or specific commands and phrases. The device features nine different voices varying in age and gender.
“After testing the final design with myself and friends and family, I was able to arrange a meeting with the Head of Neurology at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi and tested TALK (under supervision of doctor and in controlled environment) with a person suffering from SEM and Parkinson’s Disease,” Dilbagi wrote in his project report. “The person was able to give two distinguishable signals using his breath and the device worked perfectly.”
In a video demoing the device, Dilbagi notes that 1.4% of the population suffers from these sorts of disorders and they experience a lower life-expectancy, partly due to lack of expression. With his affordable device, he has the potential to improve the lives of millions by giving them an affordable mean of communication.