Stephen Hawking’s new communication system revealed

2nd December 2014

We are excited to let you know that SwiftKey has been part of an ambitious project to enhance the communication system used by world-renowned scientist Professor Stephen Hawking.

For the past two years, the SwiftKey team has collaborated with the bestselling author and Intel to make it easier for him to write and communicate. Today SwiftKey joined Intel and Professor Hawking on stage in London to talk about this work.

Professor Hawking has motor neurone disease and as such is only able to communicate by using a small sensor which is activated by a muscle in his cheek. He uses this sensor to ‘type’ characters and numbers on his keyboard. SwiftKey’s technology has been integrated into his current system so that it can accurately predict whole words, rather than just characters. That means that the time and effort Professor Hawking requires to type is significantly reduced, allowing for a much easier, speedier experience for him.

SwiftKey built a personal “language model” for Professor Hawking based on his extensive works – including documents not published in the public domain. The software learns from him to ensure it predicts contextually relevant words. It is also able to analyze the content of the specific book or lecture that he might be working on, further tailoring its predictions and autocorrections.

We found that the nature of Professor Hawking’s mistakes is fundamentally different to those mistakes of your average smartphone user. While one of our biggest demographics is the fast, sloppy typist who writes texts or tweets, Professor Hawking is an excellent, accurate speller and uses his system to write long-form lectures and books. The aim was to enable him to write and speak with greater ease for longer periods and minimise typos.

Stephen Hawking collaborates with SwiftKey

SwiftKey engineers Stephen Spencer and Joe Osborne, Professor Stephen Hawking and James Hay, in Professor Hawking’s Cambridge office

Joe Osborne, SwiftKey’s SDK team lead, who led our work on this project, said: “It has been a wonderful experience to work so closely with Professor Hawking and his team on this project, integrating our technology into his communications system. SwiftKey’s predictive technology learns from each individual user, gaining insights from their personal language style.

“We built a bespoke version for Stephen, adapting it to suit the particular challenges he faces, whether he is giving lectures, writing chapters of a new book or engaging in conversation. We estimate that our technology has roughly doubled Professor Hawking’s speech rate to date. By understanding the way he uses language, SwiftKey’s technology makes it faster and easier for Stephen to communicate, leaving him more time to consider the secrets of the universe,” he added.

At SwiftKey we feel privileged to have played a role in improving the communications of one of our greatest living scientists. As a team it makes us incredibly proud that our technology is being used to enhance communication in its broadest sense, and we believe that our work with Intel and Professor Hawking and his team will provide insights that are able to shape and improve our work in the future.

If you are interested in learning more about Professor Hawking’s work, you can discover more on his website. If you would like to know more about other examples of adaptive technology powered by SwiftKey, check out our work with pioneering Israeli startup Click2Speak.

Thanks,
Sarah Rowley and the SwiftKey Team

Download now, free
download swiftkey keyboard for iphone, ipad and ipod touch on the app store download swiftkey keyboard for iphone, ipad and ipod touch on the app store

53 responses to “Stephen Hawking’s new communication system revealed”

  1. Lynda Berman says:

    Outstanding!

  2. SoulChorea says:

    I honestly don’t know much about him, but I hope he has a good sense of humor…I cringe to think of the embarrassing autocorrect/autosuggest fails that might come out of this thing lol

  3. Talluri gopinadh says:

    It’s great to hear from you swiftkey team. Congrats…to swiftkey team

  4. Gal says:

    Keep up the good work! This really help improve people’s life.

  5. Alfonso E.M. says:

    AFAIK switfkey is not open source, but every post I read about the awesome new speech engine for Mr. Hawkings says the opposite.

    I think someone is a bit confused (me, of course)

  6. Josh, SwiftKey Community Team says:

    Thanks for all the kind words all! This is a project that we are very proud of.

  7. Vikas says:

    Awesome.. Congrats to all the members of swiftkey and intel and all people in making this happen.. cant wait to see it being used by diabled people to make their life simple..
    way to go swiftkey.. :)

    • LindaKyle says:

      @Vikas
      Assuming you meant to type “…used by disabled people” and not ‘diabled?’ I couldn’t help but notice that your Auto Correct appears to be flawed? LOL

  8. Byron C Mayes says:

    This is awesome! I have to say SwiftKey has proven to be the best alternative keyboard for me precisely because of the personal “language model” they create for me based on my Tweets, Facebook posts, and emails.

    I always figured that this work had ramifications far beyond the smartphone. It’s apparently true.

    Kudos to the SwiftKey team!

  9. larry says:

    Swiftkey is often amazing at predicting. I’ve typed whole sentences with just a few taps using the Android version. I can see where it would be helpful to have a PC version to enable mobility impaired users.

  10. elma says:

    awesome! go tech go swiftkey!

  11. appfreak says:

    The SwiftKey team is super lucky to work on a cool product and on top of that be close to such an eminency. Your work here is truly inspiring

  12. Zip Zap Zoom says:

    I am one of those long term SwiftKey users who is forced to move to Flesky due to performance issues. With the latest update on SwiftKey, the performance is so nasty that every time I type something, the key board freezes. I moved to Flesky, which really does not have lucrative features, but works flawlessly. I really want to use SwiftKey, having paid for it, but with latest update, it’s unusable on my Note 4. Unless these issues are fixed, I can see more users moving away from it.

    • Alin says:

      I don’t know why do you have problems on a Note 4. For my Moto G GPE with only 1 GB of RAM and Lollipop, SwiftKey works quite OK. It’s just a little more memory hungry than Google Keyboard but not more than Fleksy. Fleksy it’s all right but not enough.

  13. Fix this says:

    I downloaded SwiftKey on my android and wish there were a “. com” button, the keys a little wider, and the period key narrower because I hit it by accident when I use the space bar and vice versa.

  14. My name is Cashel, I am 17 years old and I have Spinal Muscular Atrophy, SMA, my communication software is so out dated I cannot upgrade from xp, my world is just like Mr. Hawking’s and I cannot lose my access to the computer, can you help me too?
    Cashel Gardner
    here is a story on me:
    http://aplus.com/a/amazing-video-from-paralyzed-boy-with-sma

    • Josh, SwiftKey Community Team says:

      @cashelgardner:disqus Thanks for reaching out in response to our post here. Would you mind shooting us a note at reviews@swiftkey.com and we’ll have someone from our team reach out to chat further about our work in this area?

      • Michael says:

        I am eager to hear what efforts are made by your company to assist this young boy Cashel.

        • Liam Paul says:

          as I would be too

        • Сурен Акопов says:

          Dear Michael! Good day! I live in Russia and I have for you a very serious scientific matter! I made a very important ( revolutionary and unpublished ) discovery – invention-the1.first practical device for reading human thoughts / human mind reading machine / Brain Computer Interface. This discovery is certainly ( exclusive ) exceptional, revolutionary nature! In particular, I have created a means for people with Locked – in Syndrome ( LiS ) and such as British physicist Stephen Hawking ( ALS ) problem. But I have a bad situation now and I can not to publish my discovery in 2013 ( I can’t protect their copyright ) and I invite partnership. Thank you. Сурен Акопов. Email : tyristcheget@gmail.com / About the problem look for example in You Tube :
          1.Jack Gallant, human mind reading machine;
          2.John – Dylan Haynes, human mind reading machine;
          3.Tom Mitchell and Marcel Just, human mind reading machine.
          I should note that the device for communication that uses Stephen Hawking is not the right way Human mind reading machine! ( не есть в правильном смысле human mind reading machine ).

      • Dear Josh, this is Cashel, I am still looking for your help can you please contact me?

        • Сурен Акопов says:

          Good day! I live in Russia. I made a very important ( revolutionary and unpublished ) discovery – invention-the1.first practical device for reading human thoughts / human mind reading machine / Brain Computer Interface. In particular, I have created a means for people with Locked – in Syndrome ( LiS ) and ALS ( such as British physicist Stephen Hawking problem ). But I have a bad situation now and I can not to publish my discovery in 2013 ( I can’t protect their copyright ) and I invite partnership. Thank you. Сурен Акопов. Email : tyristcheget@gmail.com / About the problem look for example in You Tube :
          1.Jack Gallant, human mind reading machine;
          2.John – Dylan Haynes, human mind reading machine;
          3.Tom Mitchell and Marcel Just, human mind reading machine.
          I should note that the device for communication that uses Stephen Hawking is not the right way Human mind reading machine.
          Мой аппарат для чтения мыслей человека и дешевле и лучше!
          Но я не могу обнародовать свое открытие уже два года!

        • eli wol says:

          What’s up Cashel? Did Josh ever reach out?

    • Сурен Акопов says:

      Good day! I live in Russia. I made a very important ( revolutionary and unpublished ) discovery – invention-the1.first practical device for reading human thoughts / human mind reading machine / Brain Computer Interface. In particular, I have created a means for people with Locked – in Syndrome ( LiS ) and ALS ( such as British physicist Stephen Hawking problem ). But I have a bad situation now and I can not to publish my discovery in 2013г ( I can’t protect their copyright ) and I invite partnership. Thank you. Сурен Акопов. Email : tyristcheget@gmail.com / About the problem look for example in You Tube :
      1.Jack Gallant, human mind reading machine;
      2.John – Dylan Haynes, human mind reading machine;
      3.Tom Mitchell and Marcel Just, human mind reading machine.

  15. Mark says:

    Hi Josh – when/where will this be available? My brother-in-law is in the late stages of MND and we’ve just purchased an eye tracker for him – it would be great to pair it with this software.

  16. China Captain says:

    红眼照片。

  17. wjtitus says:

    Could we get Swiftkey for Windows PCs? I use Windows On-Screen Keyboard a lot but it isn’t nearly as good as Swiftkey on my Android.

  18. Φώτης says:

    I’m a satisfied customer of SwiftKey. Now, I also feel proud because I see that my money have been given, not only for the use of a continuously evolving, great software but also to help people like Stephen Hawking and – I really hope!!! – Cashel Gardner to communicate even better.

  19. Ryo says:

    “In contrast to SwiftKey’s consumer apps, which offer three predictions, for Professor Hawking there are always ten possible predictions to choose from. The increased number is to allow for a greater number of potential next-word possibilities.”

    If only we would have THREE PREDICTIONS to choose from in landscape mode. That would be nice. It’s beyond me why Swiftkey allows 3 predictions on portrait mode, but not in ladscape mode. There could be more than in portrait, but there are less. I’m distracted. Design before usability?

  20. Dora says:

    Hi my name is Dora and my dad has ALS it’s getting really hard to understand him and I’d love nothing more than to be able to hold a conversation with him does anyone know where or if there is a meahine or some program like this one that I can buy for my dad? Please help!

    • Brooke says:

      Dora – Your dad needs to see a Speech Language Pathologist, who can set him up with an AAC device (such as a Dynavox) personalized to his needs and physical capabilities. He can almost certainly get a professional device for free with the aid of an SLP and state funding, which often requires the signature of an SLP to receive (SLPs have extensive training in ordering and setting up the correct type of equipment for your dad’s situation). This should have happened long before this point, but it’s never too late! Best of luck.

    • Сурен Акопов says:

      My email : tyristcheget@gmail.com

  21. Jyoti says:

    My mother has ALS we live in INDIA she speaks in Hindi .can swiftkey help in her speech

  22. Christian davis says:

    This form of communication sounds really good I have a son with cerebal palsy and is non verbal he uses a eco point communication device which is slow and he would like a quicker response I am wondering what would work best for him .

  23. Doomrabbit says:

    Josh/SwiftKey team, my father-in-law has multiple system atrophy (MSA) and currently uses a communication device that is completely inefficient considering his condition (the device requires him to use his hands to push four small buttons on the front of it, but since his hands tremble really badly, it takes him a long time to interact with the controls and he makes frequent mistakes, requiring him to start over. He’s using the device less and less since it’s so frustrating). His main language is Japanese (he has some English ability but is a native Japanese speaker). I know being able to communicate easily with us again would be a huge boost to his morale since he spends the majority of his time confined to bed now.

    Can your technology help my father-in-law? If so how would we get started?

    Thanks a lot,

    Bob

    • Сурен Акопов says:

      I am theorist and inventor of the first practical device for reading human thoughts or Brain Computer Interface. My email : tyristcheget@gmail.com / Thank you. Сурен Акопов.
      I should note that the device for communication that uses Stephen Hawking is not the right way Human mind reading machine!

  24. John Marshall says:

    Wow. I can’t even imagine how incredible it must be to work with Stephen Hawking.

  25. Raj Rastogi says:

    can anyone tell me the name of this technology

  26. Jim Aras says:

    I struggled learning the English language mainly due to my busy schedule and tight budget. My goal is to speak and comprehend English like a native, and to find the best English teacher on Skype. I am really pleased that a website like http://preply.com/en/skype/english-native-speakers exists to help learners like me find English personal tutor online. I get to learn 1 to 1 English lessons and to practice and converse with a very good teacher. I don’t have to be physically present to go to a class. All I need is internet access and get online through Skype (free!). I want you to experience this. Check it out and see for your self :)

  27. Irina Zhuravleva says:

    We would like to draw your attention to a surprising story. In 2012 a
    Russian citizen Pavel Arkhipov – 7 year old boy – happened to be in vital need of an operation. Doctors did to him anesthesia, but the dose was too big. Now he is disabled, he cannot move or speak. However, he still can see.

    We know that your company has created a unique speech synthesizer to Stephen Hawking.

    We ask you to give Russian child the same. Please, contact us! We hope you can help us!

    We make a film about this story and want to get your interview. Waiting for your answer.

    iporn@ya.ru (e-mail)

    +7 965 264 27 47 (tel.)

    +7 (495) 617 74 68 (fax.)

  28. Luke Hewitt says:

    The Investment in bettering this technology to assist Dr. Hawking is worth any known amount. The value his research has given to human kind deserves such an investment. To know that this technology can help others like him is overwhelmingly life affirming! Well done. If I could contribute financially I would!

  29. Luke Hewitt says:

    Good Luck Cashell, I hope you have success in your quest to improve your circumstances. I really hope these people can help you.

  30. bhaggen says:

    I was both impressed & moved at how well you answered the question about Zayn breaking the hearts of teen girls. CLASSIC Hawking! In a parallel universe I hope to meet you in another time. Happy Birthday Stephen!

  31. Сурен Акопов says:

    Good day! I live in Russia and I have for you a very serious medical and scientific work! I made a very important ( revolutionary and unpublished ) discovery – invention-the1.first practical device for reading human thoughts / human mind reading machine / Brain Computer Interface. This discovery is certainly ( exclusive ) exceptional, revolutionary nature! In particular, I have created a means for people with Locked – in Syndrome ( LiS ) and such as British physicist Stephen Hawking problem ). But I have a bad situation now and I can not to publish my discovery in 2013 ( I can’t protect their copyright ) and I invite partnership. Thank you. Сурен Акопов. Email : tyristcheget@gmail.com / About the problem look for example in You Tube :
    1.Jack Gallant, human mind reading machine;
    2.John – Dylan Haynes, human mind reading machine;
    3.Tom Mitchell and Marcel Just, human mind reading machine.
    I should note that the device for communication that uses Stephen Hawking is not the right way Human mind reading machine!

  32. Dena says:

    My name is Tyler and Iam 23 years old. This link was sent to me by a friend .
    I suffer from a TBI that I sustained 8 years ago in a MVA . My friend was texting and driving at the same time and veerd into on coming traffic and we hit a semi head on. My friend lost his life and I am who Iam now.
    I lost the ability to speak and have no balance. My mother is my full time caregiver.
    I really want more independence and not being able to communicate with others is hard and frustrating and sad.
    In fact it is my mother who is typing this now.
    Please if you can help us.

  33. Anu Byala says:

    I am from India, New Delhi . My Mother has motor neuron disease and cannot move and cannot speak. can you please help so that she is able to communicate

  34. Jaysen Rivera Lebron says:

    The day TB Joshua is able to exercise the demons in Stephen Hawkings that cause his disorder is the day many atheists will have irrefutable proof of the deity of GOD, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth.

    I hope that day comes.

    Has there ever been a case where someone with the same disease as S. Hawkings, been healed or cured?

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