Barric, Toby Churchill Team on LightWriter Text-to-Speech Technology

Contract electronics manufacturer, Barric, has announced that it is working closely with Cambridge company Toby Churchill in the future development of their acclaimed ‘text-to-speech’ LightWriter technology, a technology that enables the speech impaired to communicate.

Each year, thousands of the LightWriters are shipped around the world, enabling those who have lost their power of speech through injury or disease to communicate via a keyboard that can translate text into spoken words. In many instances this technology can enable text entry through the simple use of buttons or limb movement, allowing severely disabled people the chance to communicate with the world and enjoy a far better quality of life.

“We are currently providing the early stage manufacture of the complex computer board that is at the heart of the new LightWriter system,” said Mike Bayley, Director of Business Development at Barric. “The new design uses one of the very latest embedded microprocessors and a lot of memory and the overall design is very compact and very challenging to manufacture. It’s been one of our toughest projects to date, but very rewarding.”

The current LightWriter technology can be programmed with up to 15 languages and a number of voice variants such as male voice, female voice and child voice. The future design will bring a lot more functionality to the LightWriter, extending many of the features that enhance quality of life for its users.

“With the next design, we are really pushing the barriers, especially with regards to the internal technology. It needs to be powerful, yet portable and robust,” said John Drake, R&D project resource coordinator. “The engineers at Barric have been enormously helpful. They are very approachable and have been very understanding when we have had to make revision changes at short notice. We have very much benefited from their expertise in surface mount technology and BGA placement technology.”

With the hardware developed, the engineers at Toby Churchill are busy developing the software that will further transform the lives of people around the world. They hope to launch the new version sometime in 2007.

What makes this company so special and so expert in this field is that the person after whom the company is named, Toby Churchill, became disabled and lost his speech in the late 1960s following an attack of encephalitis while studying as an engineering student. Dissatisfied with the communication aids then available, he designed the first Lightwriter for his own use and, after meeting other people with similar needs, started to manufacture them. In addition to Toby’s contribution of the LightWriter, his company has created other technological products that continue to transform the lives of physically and mentally challenged people.

“It feels good to be working on a project that will have such a positive impact on peoples lives,” said Mike Bayley. “Toby Churchill are a very special company and we are very pleased to be working with them.”

About Barric Ltd
Barric manufacture electronic products for large and small companies across the world. With 20 years of experience, investment and success, Barric are very much leaders in this field. Equipped with the latest surface mount manufacturing equipment, hi-tech inspection technology and a team of expert engineers, Barric works closely with ‘cutting edge’ development companies from early stage design right through to volume shipment. Whether it is simply the production of electronic assemblies or complete product manufacture, Barric provides one of the best facilities available in Europe.

About Toby Churchill Ltd
Toby Churchill Ltd is a world leader in the development and manufacture of communication aids. This unique company is run by someone who is himself physically and speech disabled and the user of a communication aid and the designer of the company’s products. Toby Churchill believe this unique combination gives the company a deeper understanding of the particular needs of people with speech disabilities, and helps design better products through greater first hand experience.