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Stephen Hawking’s speech software set to be made available in open source format

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The system that helps Stephen Hawking communicate with the outside world will be made available online from January in a move that could help millions of motor neurone disease sufferers, scientists said Tuesday.

The wheelchair-bound theoretical physicist, who shot to international fame in the 1980s with his book A Brief History of Time, hailed the decision by US tech giant Intel at a press conference in London.

“By making this technology freely available, it has the potential to greatly improve the life of disabled people all over the world,” said Hawking, his words relayed by the robotic voice of his computer.

“Without this, I would not be able to speak to you today,” said the 72-year-old, who was diagnosed at the age of 21 with a motor neurone disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The communications system will be made available to researchers on the Internet as “open source”, although it would still have to be adapted for individual users.

Hawking, who teaches at Cambridge University, can write on his computer using a cheek sensor which is detected by an infrared switch mounted to his glasses and helps him select characters.

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His current system, developed by Intel over the past three years, reduces the number of moves needed to spell out words, as well as giving him new functions for the first time such as sending email attachments.

“Hawking’s typing speed is twice as fast and there is a tenfold improvement in common tasks,” Intel said in a statement.

The British company SwiftKey has also digitized all his works to help the computer guess more quickly what he is trying to say.

Hawking, who is almost entirely paralysed, demonstrated the new system in public for the first time on Tuesday.
In a press release, he said: “Medicine has not been able to cure me, so I rely on technology to help me communicate and live.”

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Quadriplegia and motor neurone disease affect over three million people worldwide.

Lama Nachman of Intel Labs said: “Technology for the disabled is often a proving ground for the technology of the future.”

Watch a report on Hawking’s announcement, as posted by Agence France-Presse, below.

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Lawrence O’Donnell throttles Donny Deutsch for saying Elizabeth Warren can’t beat Trump: ‘This is pure guesswork’

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Lawrence O'Donnell and Donny Deutsch had quite the exchange in the post-debate conversation on MSNBC Wednesday.

Deutsch tried to say that Sen. Elizabeth Warren's outstanding debate performance doesn't matter because Warren can't win in a match-up against President Donald Trump.

"I do not believe Elizabeth Warren, on stage with Donald Trump, beats him," he told the MSNBC panel. "And I think if we're honest with ourselves and we look hard at ourselves, I think a lot of people agree with me. It's — and I also think when you can label somebody a socialist, 57 percent of this country thinks that word is un-American. I'm not saying it's fair. When he can blanket Elizabeth Warren as a socialist, and he's on stage with her, the Democrats lose."

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CNN

‘He clocked Beto’: Van Jones says ‘Castro came out of nowhere’ to dominate the first Democratic debate

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CNN host Van Jones asserted on Wednesday that former Transporation Secretary Julián Castro was the breakout star of the first Democratic presidential debate.

"I was super proud to be a Democrat," Jones said following the debate. "I thought they all did better than Trump."

The CNN host went on to call Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) a "college professor" compared to the other candidates, who he said were more like "graduate students."

"She is able to go back and forth between policy and the human thing," Jones marveled before moving on to praise Castro.

"It was Castro that came out of nowhere!" Jones exclaimed. "Nobody was talking about Castro. He did the Texas takedown, turned around, clocked Beto [O'Rourke]. I mean, you never saw it coming."

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Activism

Dem debate audience goes wild over Elizabeth Warren’s plan to ‘deal with’ Mitch McConnell

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Sen. Elizebeth Warren (D-MA) revealed at Wednesday's Democratic presidential debate that she has a plan to "deal with" obstruction from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) if she becomes president.

At the first Democratic debate of the 2020 election cycle, host Chuck Todd asked Warren about what he called "the Mitch McConnell thing."

"You have a lot of ambitious plans," Todd said. "Do you have a plan to deal with Mitch McConnell? If you don’t beat him in the Senate and he is still the Senate majority leader, it’s plausible you can be president with a Republican Senate."

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