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Engineering | School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering

Giving voice to genius: Helping Hawking speak

Giving voice to genius: Helping Hawking speak

Stephen Hawking’s contributions to theoretical physics are considered no less than revolutionary in advancing our understanding of the workings of the universe.

Along with that career accomplishment, Hawking, who died in March at age 76, was also a best-selling writer and public speaker who contributed to fostering a broader public fascination with science around the world.

That he was able to do so despite decades of physical debilitation resulting from the neuromuscular disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis was made possible by other scientists, engineers and technicians.

One of those engineers is Michael Deisher, who earned a master’s degree and a doctoral degree in electrical engineering from Arizona State University in the mid-1990s.

Deisher began a full-time job with the Intel Corporation just days after completing his doctoral studies and research. He’s been with the company — working in a facility near Portland, Oregon — for 22 years, playing roles in many technological advances and enhancements that have earned U.S. patents.

Among them is what he describes as “the experience of a career,” collaborating with fellow experts in his field, and with Hawking, to improve systems that enabled Hawking to communicate.

Deisher led an Intel-sponsored team that developed speech synthesizer software as part of the computer system Hawking used to communicate.

The project “was really interesting to me as an engineer because it shows how temporary measures using the best tech we have available at any one time can lead to unintended consequences later on when better tech is developed,” Deisher say

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April 12, 2018