Making Progress with Rolls-Royce and the motor neurone disease association
Rolls-Royce | Engineering | London, UK
Giving voice to people with Motor Neurone Disease
Why it is vital:
- Changes lives
- Drives equality
- Pushes innovation
How we make progress:
- Delivering hardware
- Marketing support
- Backing new technologies
Our progress supports:
- 330,000 people living with Motor Neurone Disease
Our Progress Story
Laptops provided by Dell Technologies use voice-banking and artificial intelligence to help people living with Motor Neurone Disease speak in their own voice.
Imagine losing your voice – forever. It’s a terrible fate suffered by thousands of people living with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) across the UK.
“Those with MND are often robbed of their ability to communicate with their loved ones,” explains Stuart Moss, Head of IT Innovation at Rolls-Royce whose own father was diagnosed with MND in 2013.
“When my Dad was diagnosed, all I could think was – we have to innovate our way out of this. We have to come up with something to solve this.”
Fast-forward to 2020 and Rolls-Royce is now working with the UK-based motor neurone disease association to develop a life-changing technology that uses voice banking and artificial intelligence.
“Dell Technologies provided the motor neurone disease association members with laptops to enable them to bank the sound of their voice for future use using Acapela’s text-to-speech software,” says Nick Goldup, Director of Care Improvement, motor neurone disease association.
“This technology will give people their voice back”
We work daily with people living with MND to help preserve a part of their identity through voice banking, before their natural voice is gone forever. We provide information, equipment and expert support. As voice changes can happen quickly, time is of the essence. The Dell laptops help get voice banking done, not next week, but today if needed.
In 2020, the motor neurone disease association is forecast to assist more than 600 people in banking their voice
This is 50% higher than 2019. The association works to provide free training to speech and language therapists and other health professionals on how to help clients voice bank – more than 800 people with MND have benefited in the past three years.
This is a costly and time-consuming task – and essential to ensuring people living with MND have the information to make their own decision about voice banking, and the opportunity to do it in a timely manner.
Working together to make a difference
Since joining forces with Rolls-Royce and the motor neurone disease association in 2019, Dell Technologies has worked to provide both laptops for voice banking and volunteer hours to the NextGen Voice Project.
Although still in its early stages, Stuart Moss and the team are aiming for these technologies to be implemented into augmented and alternative communication packages that already exist, such as those used by the late Professor Stephen Hawking.
“We love to support our customers, but more importantly, we love to support a good cause that inspires and challenges our team,” says Dayne Turbitt, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Dell Technologies UK.
“We can’t cure the disease, but we have ideas, skill sets, and knowledge around engineering that can be applied to find solutions for these problems.”
Fresh hope for patients diagnosed with MND
Alongside Dell Technologies, 19 other tech companies are involved in the project that Rolls-Royce and the motor neurone disease association are calling the ‘Next Generation Think Tank’.
Stuart hopes one day people living with disabilities like MND will be able to directly benefit from the collaboration of the best and brightest minds in technology.
He asked at an innovation summit held in March 2019 where representatives from all 20 companies came together to share ideas: “What if instead of despair, newly-diagnosed MND patients could feel hope that their lives could be lived to the full with the help of progressive new technologies?”
Bringing 20 tech companies together to work on one project is no mean feat, and an achievement that’s not lost on Dell Technologies’ Dayne Turbitt.
“Technology is a funny business. We might be competing with each other, but we call a truce to solve a problem like this before we go back to competing again. Commercial competitiveness disappears when you’re working for a greater good.”
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