Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a device that can, basically, read your mind. At least, sort of.
The prototype device, dubbed AlterEgo, was developed by a team at MIT’s Media Lab. It’s a wearable headset that can actually understand and read the words you say in your head (your “inner voice”). And while it isn’t — technically — mind-reading, it comes about as close as we’ve seen.
AlterEgo relies on a process called subvocalization. Basically, when you say words to yourself in your head, your brain automatically sends signals to your mouth and jaw. That results in extremely subtle neuromuscular movements. The device detects these signals with a suite of sixteen electrodes. Built-in A.I. can then analyze these signals and match them to specific words.
What’s more, the device’s computer can then “talk back” to you via a bone conduction. Meaning, theoretically, you could have a conversation with a digital assistant that would be completely silent to the world around you.
“Our idea was: could we have a computing platform that’s more internal, that melds human and machine in some ways and that feels like an internal extension of our own cognition?” Lead researcher Arnav Kapur told The Guardian.
And while it’s not quite perfect yet, researchers say it has about a 92 percent accuracy rate at “reading” your inner voice. The team tested its accuracy in a 10-person trial. For content, the accuracy rate of Google’s voice transcription via microphone is about 95 percent.
Kapur and the other researchers are currently working to improve the internal word recognition system. And the goal, eventually, is to implement the system as a way to interface with various digital assistants — like Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant.
There are other potential uses, too. The device could be handy in high-noise environments, in the military, or to aid users with conditions that prevent them from speaking, Georgia Tech Professor Thad Starner told Digital Trends.
The team has already used AlterEgo to control Roku and other basic interfaces. Which means we might soon be living in a future where we can “talk” to our Apple TVs without actually saying a single word.
Of course, the downside is that users will have to wear a goofy-looking headset. Which was, probably, the reason Google Glass never took off. Despite that, the technology is extremely promising and could have benefits for a wide range of users.
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