The Latest Word on Virtual Reality; Good Health
Byline: ANASTASIA STEPHENS
NEW virtual reality technology could allow around 10,000 British people with Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and other disabilities to communicate for the first time.
The revolutionary Gesture Recognition System, developed by Dr Melvyn Curtis at Nottingham University, uses a person's hand, arm or leg movements to instruct computers to write words or `talk'. The equipment, funded by Action Research, also learns to ignore involuntary movement such as the trembling caused by Parkinson's.
Conventional computers need keyboards or joysticks to operate. But the new system, known as the GesRec, uses a series of virtual reality sensors which monitors movement and turns it into speech or text.
The sensors are attached to arms, hands or other parts of the body and learn to recognise distinctive movements. These gestures are then programmed to represent letters, words or sections of the alphabet. In this way, even a person who can only make two basic gestures is able to construct sentences which are written as text or verbalised by the computer.
`The person makes a movement or tries to write a letter in the air and the computer learns to recognise each individual action,' says Dr Curtis.
`Using this, the person can spell out words or select phrases from a pre-prepared menu in the synthesiser.
`The computer only remembers movements that the user wants to be recognised and ignores smaller involuntary gestures.'
The system also has the advantage of allowing people to have their own personalised voice. At the moment most people using speech synthesisers have to make do with an obligatory American accent. …