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Vietnamese university student with cerebral palsy develops voice support app

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Working with a team of friends, an IT major with spastic cerebral palsy developed an AI-based app that can help transcribe the voices of people with speech impairments into natural voices.

He is Nguyen Duc Thuan, 20, a student from Bac Ninh Province, northern Vietnam, which is about 30 kilometers from the capital Hanoi.

During his middle school years, Thuan was always ridiculed by his mischievous friends because of his neurological condition.

Sometimes, he was even beaten by some children who called him ‘a paralyzed boy.’

“We hope the app we developed can help people with speech disabilities communicate more easily so that their lives have fewer difficulties,” Thuan said. 

Accompanying the son

In the memory of Do Thi Hoai, Thuan’s mother, her son’s childhood meant a series of long days in the hospital.

Because he was born with spastic cerebral palsy, Thuan had to receive so many treatments to be able to go to elementary school. 

Because of his illness, Thuan often stayed at the National Hospital for Acupuncture in Hanoi for nearly 12 months a year.

He only took one week off a month to go home and had to return to the hospital for treatment.

In the early days at school, Thuan had little difficulty in learning only by drawing characters.

However, in the third grade, when he had to take notes more quickly, his characters turned into something like ‘noodles’ that he eventually could not read by himself. 

He tried to memorize the material and then wrote down as much as he could on later tests. 

“While his friends took about 50 minutes to think and 10 minutes to write down the answer on a math test, my son took 10 minutes to think and 50 minutes to write it down, quite the opposite,” Thuan’s mother recalled. 

Although his health is not too weak, he cannot sit on a chair in a stable posture and has issues walking more than a few steps. 

In addition, the muscles in his legs and arms become stiff, and his body is so wobbly on his feet that he is in danger of falling at any time.

“What I can do is encourage him to do his best to overcome the obstacles in life and also in his studies,” Hoai said.

“I advised him to see the challenges as steps on the way to higher achievements.”

The breakthrough came when Thuan was given an old computer by some friends who were co-workers of his father. The young man developed a special passion for programming. 

Hoai, who stood by her son in all circumstances, accompanied him almost every day to Bac Ninh High School for the Gifted in Bac Ninh City, where Thuan could pursue his passion.

The mother and her son patiently traveled from their home in Que Vo District to Bac Ninh City daily, despite the unpredictable weather, especially the heavy rain and biting cold on the worst days.

Their efforts finally paid off. As an 11th-grade student, Thuan won the third prize in the national exam for excellent students in computer science. 

Thanks to this achievement, he was awarded a place in grade 12 at Bac Ninh High School for the Gifted, where he had previously failed the entrance exam. 

‘Speaking’ on behalf of the disabled

Thuan spends a lot of time reading books on meditation and Buddhism, including many by the late Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. 

His favorite, however, is The Alchemist (Portuguese: O Alquimista), a novel by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, translated into Vietnamese by Le Chu Cau.

Thuan was given The Alchemist by a teacher, Do Duc Dong, whom he met a few years ago at a summer camp of the Ho Chi Minh City Youth Union in outlying Can Gio District.

Dr. Dong, an IT lecturer at Thuan’s school, the University of Engineering and Technology under the Vietnam National University-Hanoi, advised him to try to ‘develop’ the coding in his brain accurately before presenting it on the computer to reduce the time for wrong calculations, which is harder for him than others because of his condition.

He also encouraged Thuan to join the research team, led by Associate Professor Dr. Le Thanh Ha, to find ways to recognize the voices of people with speech disabilities using AI software and convert them into normal voices.

“Considering Thuan’s neurological condition, he has managed to do what is difficult even for an able-bodied person,” Dong remarked.

“We can see that he must have remarkable strength and intelligence.”

The software developed by Dong and his team can help transform the voices of people with speech problems into more natural ones with more rhythm.

The algorithms can ‘self-learn’ to effectively transcribe a person’s voice based on personal data. So, if the software was used with each individual, it could work more accurately, according to Thuan.

Thuan wants to use the software for deaf-mutes, people with speech disorders, and those who, like him, cannot communicate normally with others. 

His team is still finalizing the software to integrate the app with smart devices such as smartphones and laptops. 

In order to carry out this project, Thuan had to acquire as much knowledge as possible, including foreign languages, AI skills, and advanced coding skills.

Right now, team members are working on a technological solution to regenerate the voices of people with speech impairments, a condition that often occurs in the elderly or disabled.

According to Thuan’s research, there is now a lot of foreign software that supports people with speech disabilities, but none supports the Vietnamese language.

“The pronunciation of our language is quite complicated and has different accents,” Thuan explained.

“Moreover, there is not enough data to ‘train’ AI-based software for it, which results in the app unable to distinguish between very similar words.

“Therefore, we are trying to find solutions to the problem.”

At the Vietnam Glory 2022 event held in Hanoi on September 10, Nguyen Duc Thuan was one of six people honored for their contributions in the category of outstanding personalities.

His previous achievements also include a first prize in the 2020 National Youth Computer Science Competition and a second prize in the 2021 National Selection Competition for Excellent Students in Computing.

Thuan was also one of 15 Vietnamese students who participated in the Asia-Pacific Computer Science Olympiad APIO 2021.

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Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20220920/vietnamese-university-student-with-cerebral-palsy-develops-voice-support-app/69147.html

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More endangered gray-shanked douc langurs found in central Vietnam

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Nonprofits Save Vietnam’s Wildlife and GreenViet have recently found 10 herds of 104 endangered gray-shanked douc langurs after surveying ten forests in Ba To District in the central province of Quang Ngai.

“These are very rare douc langurs that need urgent conservation,” said Ngo Vinh Phong, head of the Quang Ngai Forest Protection Department.

They are included in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of threatened species.

In the world, the gray-shanked douc langur is only found in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, according to Tran Huu Vy, director of GreenViet. 

An endangered gray-shanked douc langur and its infant are seen in Ba To District, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam. Photo: Hoang Quoc Huy / Tien Phong

An endangered gray-shanked douc langur and its offspring are seen in Ba To District, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam. Photo: Hoang Quoc Huy / Tien Phong

In Vietnam, it is estimated that there are only 2,200 – 2,500 gray-shanked douc langurs in the wild, distributed in Gia Lai, Kon Tum, Phu Yen, Binh Dinh, Quang Nam, and Quang Ngai Provinces.

Vy and many experts are calling for the establishment of a nature reserve at the place where the 104 gray-shanked douc langurs were discovered in Ba To District.

The new reserve will border existing nature reserves in Gia Lai and Binh Dinh Provinces.

Endangered gray-shanked douc langurs are hunted in Ba To District, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam. Photo: T.M. / Tien Phong

Endangered gray-shanked douc langurs are hunted in Ba To District, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam. Photo: T.M. / Tien Phong

Reports showed that about 86 gray-shanked douc langurs were caught in the central and Central Highlands provinces in the 2010-20 period. 

In Ba To District, forest rangers caught a case of five gray-shanked douc langurs being hunted and launched legal proceedings against the people involved.

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Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20221202/more-endangered-grayshanked-douc-langurs-found-in-central-vietnam/70279.html

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Ho Chi Minh City’s sky turns gray due to air pollution

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The sky of Ho Chi Minh City had a dull gray color with a thick layer of gloomy mist as air pollution worsened on Thursday morning, according to experts.

Many buildings and skyscrapers were covered by the leaden mist around 9:00 am and 10:00 am as observed by Tien Phong (Youth) newspaper.

The foggy, murky weather often occurs in the southern region in the year-end season, the experts said.

This image shows the gloomy sky of the eastern area of Ho Chi Minh City on December 1, 2022. Photo: Le Phan / Tien Phong

This image shows the gloomy sky of the eastern area of Ho Chi Minh City on December 1, 2022. Photo: Le Phan / Tien Phong

The Ho Chi Minh City Department of Natural Resources and Environment called this phenomenon photochemical smog, a term used to describe a form of air pollution that occurs in the troposphere and is caused by sunlight acting on emissions.

Compounds created from this procedure are harmful to human health and reduce visibility.

This image shows the gloomy sky in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City on December 1, 2022. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tien Phong

This image shows the gloomy sky in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City on December 1, 2022. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tien Phong

Monitoring results from November 14 to 20 showed that 42.9 percent of the total suspended particulate (TSP) values, all noise indicators, and 9.5 percent of the fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) indicators did not meet requirements.

This image shows the gloomy sky in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City on December 1, 2022. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tien Phong

This image shows the gloomy sky in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City on December 1, 2022. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tien Phong

Meanwhile, Le Thi Xuan Lan, former deputy head of the southern hydro-meteorological station, who calls the phenomenon ‘dust-mixed smog,’ explained that as the rainy season has not ended yet, humidity remains high in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Suspended dust clings to water vapor, so we can see it more clearly,” Lan said. 

“This is a sign of air pollution.”

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Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20221201/ho-chi-minh-citys-sky-turns-gray-due-to-air-pollution/70281.html

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Ho Chi Minh City to conduct test run of first metro line’s elevated section this month

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Ho Chi Minh City is expected to conduct a test run along the elevated section of its first metro line later this month, according to secretary of the municipal Party Committee Nguyen Van Nen.

During a meeting on Wednesday, Nen directed relevant agencies to speed up and put into use key projects, especially the long-stalled metro line No. 1.

According to the report of the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City, the metro line project is now 92.89 percent complete.

The developer and contractor are expected to conduct the trial run of the elevated section from Suoi Tien Terminal to Binh Thai Station in late December.

In late January, the developer will carry out the trial operation of the elevated section along with the automatic train protection (ATP), automatic train operation (ATO), and automatic train supervision (ATS) systems.

The developer will strive to complete the installation of equipment on the entire route by April.

The trial operation of the entire route is expected to take place in August, while the project will come on stream by the end of 2023.

Metro line No. 1 is 19.7 kilometers long, including 2.6 kilometers of underground railways and 17.1 kilometers of elevated tracks.

It runs from Ben Thanh Market in District 1 to Suoi Tien Theme Park in Thu Duc City through three underground stations and 11 stops above the ground.

The line has 17 trains, each consisting of three cars and designed to run at up to 110 kilometers per hour above the ground and 80 kilometers per hour underground.

Each Japanese-manufactured train is 61.5 meters long and can carry 930 passengers, including 147 seating and 783 standing guests.

The metro project, which started in August 2012, carries a price tag of VND43.7 trillion (US$1.9 billion).

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Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20221201/ho-chi-minh-city-to-conduct-test-run-of-first-metro-lines-elevated-section-this-month/70282.html

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