Gurgaon, Sep 15 :
A teenager from Haryana has invented a device to help patients of the dreaded ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease speak through their breath. His project is now among 15 shortlisted for the Google Science Fair Award 2014.
Arsh Shah Dilbagi, a student of Class 12 in one of the three DAV Public Schools in Panipat city of Haryana, has invented “Talk”, an innovative augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device to tackle the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) disease.
ALS is a neuro-degenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to control muscle movement is lost, and patients in the later stages may become totally paralysed, says the ALS Association based in Washington.
Arsh submitted his project online in February.
Hundreds of thousands of projects were submitted throughout the world as there was no fee to participate in the Google Science Fair.
Ninety projects were shortlisted by the judges for further consideration, and of the 90, five projects were from India.
“The 90 participants were interviewed online by the judges, and they selected 15 projects from nine countries, including India,” Arsh told IANS.
Arsh is now the only participant from the Asia region.
He said his device Talk will help ALS patients speak through their breath.
The Google Science Fair website says Talk is a patent-pending innovative technology which, using the variations in a person’s breath, helps him or her either to dictate letters which are further combined as sentences or speak out specific phrases depending on the mode selected.
Current such devices cost thousands of dollars but Talk can be made accessible under $100 and it also increases the speaking rate by at least 300 percent, it says.
“Earlier, a single access switch device was the only way to help ALS patients, but its cost starts from Rs.10 lakh. Middle class families are not able to afford this device,” Arsh said.
He said that over 100 million people throughout world are ALS patients, more than the population of Germany.
However, there was no data available about the number of such patients in India, he said.
Arsh will be leaving for California Sep 19. There will be an exhibition round Sep 21-22, and results will be announced Sep 23.
Six awards will be given among the 15 participants.
There is also a voters’ choice award, and Arsh has appealed to the people of India to vote for him.
One can vote by visiting www.googlesciencefair.com., then select Arsh’s project and click ‘yes’ for him.
Voting lines are open up to 12 midnight of Sep 15, said Arsh’s father Amit Dilbagi, an executive engineer with the Haryana government’s electricity department in Panipat.
Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has also lauded Arsh for his project.