Photo Origin: Champaign County Economic Development Corporation
By: Zachary Paul, B.S. in Advertising, College of Media, Class of 2010
Michael Callahan, the CEO and co-founder of the Ambient Corporation, began his research at the University of Illinois, where he received his undergraduate education and a master’s degree in the Systems and Entrepreneurial Engineering program. During that time he developed his business idea, won local and national business plan competitions, and launched Ambient.
Callahan has helped to develop a computer program technology that will allow people with neurological disabilities and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to communicate their thoughts and ideas. People with vocal disabilities can speak. Ambient partnered with the Rehabilitation Institute in Chicago to test their prototype. The technology works by collecting neurological information from the head and neck. The signals collected are then analyzed by Callahan’s technology to produce the words the person would speak if they were physically able. The system developed by Callahan and his team has a 70% accuracy rate.
Ambient’s technology is currently tested and developed on wheelchair models, such as those used by world-renowned physicist Steven Hawking. Whereas Hawking’s wheelchair produces speech through finger movements on a keypad, Callahan’s produces speech through neurological activity. Today Callahan and Ambient Corporation sell the computer program to researchers in hopes of advancing current technology, and helping people with neurological disabilities.