By Lincoln Humphries, Phoebe Baker

A team of students from the University of Canberra has developed technology which allows people who cannot speak to communicate via their thoughts.

The system has the potential to help sufferers of strokes, dementia and paralysis and has taken out the national prize in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), more than 350,000 Australians require assistance communicating due to disability.

The Canberra university students hope their invention vastly improves the quality of life for thousands of Australians.

Team leader Paul Du explains how the technology works.

“What it does is it registers signals such as winking, looking left, looking right, winking a certain eye, moving facial muscles,” he said.

Mr Du said the signals are then translated into text on a laptop screen, allowing effective communication without the need for speech.

“We’re looking at covering speech impediments, physical disabilities, and people with motor conditions as well.”

Speech pathologist Dr Lynn Chenoweth, of the University of Technology Sydney, said she is excited about what the technology has to offer patients in her field.

“This technology is sophisticated enough to be able to be used with people of this type of cognitive impairment,” she said.

Dr Chenoweth said easier communication will not only save a lot of frustration for patients, but also time for health care staff.