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Sunday, 16 November 2014

Hear that Voice

Arsh Shah Dilbagi | Ravi Choudhary

No matter how we communicate or with whom, without it our world would be incomplete. Ask a person with any kind of speech impairment about it, his lack of words will speak volumes about his pain. But thanks to a 16-year-old student from Panipat in Haryana, they can now let their voice be heard.

Some time back, Arsh Shah Dilbagi won Google Science Fair’s Voter’s Choice Award as he was one of the top 15 global finalists of 2014. He was the only student from Asia to make it there. His invention TALK—an affordable, ultra-light, fastest and portable Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device—helps people with any kind of speech impairment to communicate with the world. Besides receiving a host of inspiring prizes like a laptop, a tablet and others, Dilbagi was also awarded a cash prize of $10,000 (`6 lakh).

TALK enables people with developmental disabilities (DD) like locked-in syndrome, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and even mutes to communicate in normal form of speech. It is a patent-pending innovative technology which uses the variations in person’s breath to help him or her either dictate letters which are further combined and synthesised as sentences or speak-out specific commands and phrases depending on the mode selected.

“I won the voters’ choice award which was given to me on September 22 in California in the US. I was accompanied by my parents whose support means a lot to me. There were a total of five awards which were given away in the event and my award was one of them,” Dilbagi, a student of Panipat’s DAV International School, told The Sunday Standard.

“Earlier 90 participants were interviewed online by the judges, and they selected 15 projects from nine countries, including mine from India. I got the idea to develop TALK as Stephen Hawking, a noted professor in theoretical physics, suffers from motor neurone disease but still continues to work with the help of technology,” says Dilbagi. Currently, AAC devices cost around `4 lakh but Dilbagi’s invention is priced at around `5,000.

Approximately 2 per cent of the world population suffer from DD. “The main ideology behind my project is to make a difference in the lives of this particular set of people who are not brought under the radar of existing inventors and innovators,” he says.

According to Dilbagi, TALK is the World’s first and only wearable AAC device for people who are almost entirely paralysed. He had to start from scratch to build this simplest yet the world’s most advanced AAC device. “I have toiled for more than a year to develop TALK. I have invested my entire time and energy in building different prototypes, testing different designs and making better computational engines with accuracies rounding to nearly 100 per cent to make this device a reality. I am doing my bit to make the world more connected for people with developmental disabilities.” he adds.

Besides Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs has always been his inspiration for combining technology with art and envisioning products like no other. “I am fascinated by Isaac Asimov for his amazing work of science fiction and Stephen Hawking for his work in the field of theoretical physics,” he says.

“I believe the fruitful past academics, research and hands-on experiences that I have had, the grooming that I am going through and a focused, determined and passionate approach towards future are my strengths and will pave the way for my success and help me achieve my long-term goals,” states a determined Dilbagi.

The 21st century is going to belong to artificial intelligence and the young Indian looks forward to be a part of this scientific revolution. “The desire to become a part of this revolution, to collectively tackle the challenge of imparting intelligence to machines for the betterment of mankind and the dream of making original contributions to my field of interest has motivated me to opt for a career in computer science and robotics,” he adds.

But this is just the beginning for the young inventor. “I have also been nominated for Scientific American Science in Action Award as well as Google Computer Science Award,” concludes Dilbagi.

Source : The New Indian Express , 15th Nov 2014 

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