Communication is one of the most difficult aspects of living with a motor neurone disease. Rolls-Royce Quips is developing a cool new Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool with its R² Data Labs that may bring some hope into the lives of people who have lost their ability to speak due to a motor neurone disease such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease affects brain and spinal cord nerves that control muscles. Thus, it enables us to breath, eat, speak and move. As the neurones undergo degeneration, the individual begins to lose these innate abilities. ALS is known to cause more than 100,000 deaths worldwide every year.

Rolls-Royce Quips aims to improve the lives of people living with such extreme disabilities. The tool is expected to enable people with motor neurone disease to have conversations in their own voice.

Rolls-Royce partners for ALS patients

For this effort, Rolls-Royce has partnered with its data innovation catalyst R2 Data Labs as well as the Motor Neurone Disease Association. They have also tied up with some leading tech companies to pool in the necessary technology and expertise. Some tech partners working on the project include Microsoft, Intel, Accenture, Dell Technologies and Computacenter.

Rolls-Royce Quips can help people with motor neurone disabilities to have conversations via a computer. This can be done using their own voice, words, colloquialisms and accent. It employs voice-banking as well as AI to learn the individual’s unique language style to use it in conversations.

Technologies available so far to help people with motor neurone disease communicate better haven’t shown great results. Rolls-Royce Quips is likely to help them communicate quicker and closer to real-time in comparison with existing technologies available for the purpose.

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Most current technologies require users to type what they wish to say. This text is then read out — usually in a computerised voice. With Quips, there will be no need to pause to type and there won’t be a restriction on the set of words.

Quips is in its early stages of development but the company plans to implement it into some of the existing augmented and alternative communication packages available for people with MND.