The Speakeasy Communication Prosthesis System

Thomas Gruber (1984). The Speakeasy Communication Prosthesis System.  Department of Computer and Information Science, University of Massachusetts, COINS Technical Report 84-22, August 1984.

Communication prosthesis is a means by which profoundly disabled, nonvocal individuals, for whom ordinary modes of communication are difficult or impossible, may express themselves. Conventional prosthetic techniques are inflexible and limited in coverage, and require special skills of the listener and speaker. Computer prosthesis promises to address these shortcomings, and to provide a powerful new technology for serving the communication needs of the disabled. The most important feature of a computer prosthesis system is the user interface. A model of a user interface for computer prosthesis is presented in which the computer takes the role of an intelligent communication assistant. The assistant presents information to the disabled user, who makes a choice by giving a unitary response (using a very simple and inexpensive device). The assistant interprets the response in the context of the interactive session, and then generates output which conveys the user’s meaning. The details of the model are described in terms of the information flow which occurs between the user, assistant, and the outside world. The model is implemented in a computer program called SpeakEasy designed as a real world application in communication prosthesis.