Replacing ordinary hospital-room televisions with intelligent, voice-controlled touchscreens could do more than make it easier for patients to change the channel when they’re bored....

Replacing ordinary hospital-room televisions with intelligent, voice-controlled touchscreens could do more than make it easier for patients to change the channel when they’re bored. It could help people with disabilities — and their doctors and nurses — access their medical records, call for assistance or request special-diet menus at mealtime.

Researchers with Spain’s Universidad Carlos III of Madrid (UC3M) are currently working with the company IonIDE to develop just such a system, called IonPAD.

“We have developed a speech recognition system that allows the IonPAD to be controlled by voice, in addition to a voice synthesis system that allows individuals with a visual handicap to understand what is shown on the screen,” said Luis Puente, a researcher at UC3M. “Surprisingly, there was no solution available that enabled a handicapped person to have access to this type of service.”

Currently, the system has been able to operate in tests with an accuracy rate of 81 percent. With additional filtering and training, the research team expects to bring that up to percent.

“A blind person will be able to know what contents are available and to select the ones they are interested in simply by speaking to the device; or someone whose arms are in plaster casts will be able to change the television channel by telling the ionPAD terminal to do so, without having to rely on help from a companion or a nurse, which up until now was absolutely essential,” said Roberto Peña, technical director of IonIDE. “This way, not only are we improving the integration of the handicapped into society, we are also improving the efficiency of hospital resources, allowing the personnel to dedicate their time to purely medical tasks.”

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