Local doctor helped late Stephen Hawking communicate

Courtesy: Marisa/David Torch
Courtesy: Marisa/David Torch(KOLO)
Published: Mar. 15, 2018 at 12:30 AM PDT
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was felt around the world, but it especially impacted a local doctor who once worked with the famed physicist.

"I was shocked! It was almost as if this was a man of the universe who could live forever," said Dr. William ‘Bill’ Torch, Founder of Eye-Com.

Dr. Torch met Dr. Hawking several times over the years.

"So enthralled by his lust to live and create. Live to the fullest of his capabilities," said Dr. Torch.

In the 1990s, Dr. Torch was working on an invention called Eye-Com that would allow paralyzed individuals to communicate with their eyes.

"When it comes to invention, no one ever promises you a road map and this road map took me in many different directions and it took me in a direction of Stephen Hawking," said Dr. Torch.

It was inspired by a young Reno man who was on life support and only able to communicate by blinking.

After meeting Hawking, Dr. Torch knew his invention could help him. His invention allowed Hawking to write, speak and control his electric wheelchair all through the movements of his eyes.

"Which was able, in our hands; type with the eyes at a speed of 15 words a minute and by that point Professor Hawking was now typing with his facial twitch switch at about a half a word per minute,” said Dr. Torch.

Torch says around 2011, Dr. Hawking was pleased with the invention and tried it, but decided against using it in his everyday life due to his advanced age.

While Dr. Hawking may not have used Eye-Com, the technology has gone on to help others suffering from ALS (Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Dr. Torch says that could not have been accomplished without the inspiration from Dr. Stephen Hawking.

"It's the greatest honor to be able to work with him and to help countless millions of other people who are enabled, as well as disabled," said Dr. Torch.

Eye-Com has more than 70 patents. In 2016, Dr. Torch sold Eye-Com to Google, which is using the technology in virtual reality devices.

Dr. Torch will display his Eye-Com work at the Discovery Museum in the coming months.