While we have voice recognition software, that lets you interact with your computers, phones and off late, smart speakers by talking to them by using a trigger command, researchers at MIT have been working on a device to bypass the need to actually talk out loud.
MIT researchers have developed a device, code-named AlterEgo, that can listen to the words you don’t say or say silently (without speaking) in your mind. The device which is connected to a computer system transcribes words that user verbalizes internally. These internally verbalized words trigger certain neuromuscular signals which although not visible to the human eye, can be detected by sensors.
A device which looks like a modified headphone, spans from the top of your ear to the chin. It houses electrodes that pick up the neuromuscular signals in the jaw and the face which are activated by internal verbalizations, i.e. when you say words in your head. The signals collected by the electrodes are sent to a machine learning system which is able to do the computation for the user. The machine learning system associates certain words with a certain type of signals.
Arnav Kapur, a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab, who led the development of the new system demonstrated the device in a video which showed him controlling a smart TV without any physical interference. He scrolled down the list on the TV program guide internally verbalizing it, and this signal was then transmitted by the machine learning algorithm into language that the TV could understand and eventually react to it.
The prototype wearable device had an average transcription accuracy rate of 92% after it was used by 10 subjects that spent 15 minutes each customising the arithmetic application to their own neurophysiology and then spent 90 minutes using it to execute computations.
The device can be used at places where a conversation is important but is difficult because of various factors. It can be used on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, at a power-plant or a printing press where noise is too loud for normal conversations to happen. It can be also used by firefighters who already wear masks making it difficult to communicate. It will also be helpful for those who are not able to communicate because of disabilities.