Assistive Technology: Teen Gives Voice To The Voiceless


June 17, 2016

The healthcare technology field is expansive and innovative. Everyday there is a new treatment, a new prosthetic, or new insight into an affliction. From penicillin to a triple bypass heart surgery, we have discovered solutions to some of life’s most difficult challenges, and we continue to do so. Honored in 2014 by the President of India and Google’s Science Fair, Arsh “Robo” Shah Dilbagi invented an assistive technology device that enables an individual who is mute to speak once again or for the very first time. Perhaps most shocking of all is that Robo was only 16 when the prototype was tested.


Talk: Because Everyone Has a Right to

What makes the Talk so impressive is its simplicity. It is essentially just an earpiece and microphone placed beneath one’s nose or in front of their mouth. To use the device, the owner need only exhale into the small microphone. The Talk will then translate those breaths into intelligible words emitted from a small speaker on the device.

It works by recognizing the pressure created by the wearer’s exhale and categorizing that pressure in terms of Morse code. A “dot” is signified by a short exhale and a “dash” is created by a longer one. The user need only then learn the combinations in Morse code and a whole world of communication is open to them.


The Importance of Talk

The Talk is applicable to a wide range of individuals. Those who suffer from developmental disabilities like LIS, ALS, Tetraplegia, and more are often completely paralyzed and must use some form of augmentive and alternative communication (AAC) devices.

The total number of people with such afflictions is approximately 1.4% of the world’s population—larger than the total population of Germany.

Other AAC Devices

Alternative AAC devices exist and are in use by the public today, but they have their drawbacks. The overarching issues with existing AAC devices mostly involves one of two factors. They are either too expensive to be accessible to a wide swath of the population, or the device is large, bulky, and inconvenient for everyday use.


Future Refinements to the Talk

The Talk was Robo’s entry to the Google 2014 Science Fair, and thus, his research and development was limited to the budgetary and time restraints of a contest. Yet, Robo has a vision for the future of the device. It is currently patent pending, but in his application to the Google Science Fair, he cites plans to refine the circuit board in the Talk to increase efficiency and decrease the already light weight. Furthermore, an advanced computing program would enable features such as predictive auto-completion to accelerate the rate of speech and open the door to smartphone integrations.

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For Further Reading:

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