New Device Turns Breath Into Words, Gives Paralysis Victims a Voice

A first of its kind device that transforms paralysis victims’ breath into words has been developed by researchers, including one of Indian-origin.

The prototype developed by researchers from Loughborough University analyses changes in breathing patterns and converts ‘breath signals’ into words using pattern recognition software and an analogue-to-digital converter.

A speech synthesizer then reads the words aloud. The Augmentative and Alternate Communication (AAC) device is designed for patients with complete or partial loss of voluntary muscle control who don’t have the ability to make purposeful movements such as sniffing or blinking – gestures which previous AAC devices have come to rely upon.

Dr. David Kerr, Senior Lecturer in the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, and Dr. Kaddour Bouazza-Marouf, Reader in Mechatronics in Medicine, said the device learns from its user, building up its knowledge as it goes.

It allows the user to control how he or she wishes to communicate – effectively enabling them to create their own language by varying the speed of their breathing.

The academics have been joined in the project by Dr. Atul Gaur, Consultant Anaesthetist at Glenfield Hospital, and Loughborough mechanical engineering student Robert Green, who will work on the device as part of his final year individual project.

“What we are proposing is a system that learns with the user to form an effective vocabulary that suits the person rather than the machine,” Kerr said.

“When it comes to teaching our invention to recognise words and phrases, we have so far recorded a 97.5 percent success rate. Current AAC devices are slow and range from paper-based tools to expensive, sophisticated electronic devices. Our AAC device uses analogue signals in continuous form, which should give us a greater speed advantage because more information can be collected in a shorter space of time,” he said.

“This device could transform the way people with severe muscular weakness or other speech disorders communicate,” Gaur said.

“In an intensive care setting, the technology has the potential to be used to make an early diagnosis of locked-in syndrome (LIS), by allowing patients, including those on ventilators, to communicate effectively for the first time by breathing – an almost effortless act which requires no speech, limb or facial movements,” Gaur added.

Isro, Nasa’s Nisar Earth Observation Satellite to Be Launched in 2021

India and US have set a target of 2021 to put their collaborative earth observation satellite Nisar in orbit, Isro Chairman A S Kiran Kumar said Thursday.

Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) was working with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) of the US to undertake the launch of Nisar by 2021, he told reporters here after the successful launch of GSAT-6 onboard GSLV-D6.

“One of the GSLV Mark II will carry Nasa’s satellite Nisar in 2021. There is a very good chance of commercial requirement. Currently we are working on it,” he said.

Nisar (Nasa-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar) will be a dedicated mission to optimally measure intrinsic changes of the Earth’s surface associated with motions of the crust and ice surfaces.

Nasa has been studying concepts for a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) mission to determine Earth change in three disciplines – ecosystems, solid earth and cryospheric sciences.

In the course of these studies, a partnership with Isro developed that led to a joint mission with L-band and S-band SAR systems on board.

(Also see:  Isro Launches GSAT-6 Communications Satellite)

Isro has identified a range of applications of particular relevance to India that the mission will address, including monitoring of agricultural biomass over India, snow and glacier studies in the Himalayas, Indian coastal and near- shore ocean studies, and disaster monitoring and assessment.

Elaborating about Isro’s future plans, Kumar said, it was working on enhancing capacity of the space agency by utilising both GSLV and PSLV vehicles for its future missions.

After the successful launch of the first GSLV in January 2014, Kumar said there has been enough demand for both PSLV and GSLV. “GSLV puts satellites in Geostationary orbit.

Whereas PSLV is different. But there is huge market even for GSLV. After today’s launch we are confident of making successful launches in GSLV,” he said.

He said the Isro was working on reducing the time frame for its launches.

According to GSLV-D6/GSAT-6, Mission Director R Umamaheswaran the launch of GSLV-D6 was one of the “shortest campaign” undertaken by Isro.

“The preparations for this launch commenced on April 8.

This is one of the shortest launch campaigns as of GSLV is concerned and today is 100th day of the campaign. Here the cryogenic stage is assembled in Mahendragiri. With this we are able to reduced duration of the campaigns,” he said. Kiran Kumar said, “We made a successful launch of GSLV last year… Today’s was the second.

“We do understand the intricacies of such things. But we should do it day after day. PSLV and GSLV are two different categories. There is enough demand for both globally. We have to make successful launches in GSLV as only numbers will demonstrate.”

“We need more capacity. We need to make sure that more and more satellites are put. Our intention is to reduce the time normally taken for making launches. We are continuously looking in improving it,” he said.

Asked about the future launches to be undertaken by Isro, he said the next launch Astrosat is expected by end of September on board PSLV.

“We are now targeting Astrosat which has got a number of science payloads. This is a unique satellite because it has got many observations on a common platform. we are targeting to launch it in last week of September,” he said.

“We are also planning to launch three IRNSS satellites by December 2015, February 2016 and March 2016,” he said.

On status of moon mission Chandrayaan-II, Kumar said Isro was targeting to launch it by end of 2017 or early 2018.

“Currently work is in progress. We have got couple of tests coming up in the next few months,” he said.

To a query about the launch of satellites made in the US, Kumar said four satellites would be launched with Astrosat.

“US satellites will be launched with Astrosat. Actually, four of them (satellites). It will go next month,” he said.

Isro Launches GSAT-6 Communications Satellite

An Indian rocket with over two tonne communication satellite GSAT-6, which has several strategic applications, blasted off from the Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh on Thursday.

Precisely at 4.52 p.m., the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Development 5 (GSLV D6) rose from the second launch pad Sriharikota at Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

The 49.1 metre tall rocket weighing 416 tonnes would sling the 2,117 kg GSAT-6 communication satellite in the geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) around 17 minutes into the flight.

Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) scientists at the mission control centre Sriharikota watched their monitors intently to see the rocket’s progress.

One of the crucial rocket engines is the cryogenic engine, more efficient as it provides more thrust for every kilogram of propellant burnt, designed and developed by Isro.

This is the GSLV rocket with domestically-built cryogenic engine that is flown after nearly a year, in its second mission during the last five years after two such rockets failed in 2010.

One of the failed GSLV rockets flew with an Indian cryogenic engine and the other with a Russian engine.

The GSLV is a three stage/engine rocket. The core of first stage is fired with solid fuel while the four strap-on motors by liquid fuel. The second is the liquid fuel and the third is the cryogenic engine.

For the country, Isro perfecting the cryogenic engine technology is crucial as precious foreign exchange can be saved by launching communication satellites on its own.

Currently Isro flies its heavy communication satellites by European space agency Ariane.

India pays around Rs.500 crore as launch fee for sending up a 3.5 tonne communication satellite. The satellite cost is separate.

The Isro can send smaller communication satellites – weighing around two tonnes – till such time it gets ready an advanced GSLV variant-GSLV-Mark III that can lug satellites weighing around four tonnes.