This Device Reads Your Thoughts – and Answers Back
In the spring of 2018, researchers at MIT created AlterEgo, a wearable device capable of reading a person’s internal subvocalized monologue. When a person “speaks” in their mind, they produce almost undetectable muscle movements as if they are speaking aloud. The non-invasive device attaches to the face and jaw, and uses electrodes to read these neuromuscular signals. It is claimed that the device can transcribe internal vocalisations with 92% accuracy, and can “talk back” to the user without the need for headphones by using bone conduction. It is primarily designed as a hands-free and private means of interacting with computers.
It is possible to imagine many applications for human-computer interface devices of this nature. For example, they might allow users to discreetly issue commands and receive feedback from AI assistants like Google Assistant and Siri without disrupting people nearby. Combined with smart glasses or other wearable devices, this type of device might offer technologically enabled ‘telepathy’, allowing silent conversations with other users. Such devices could give speech to those who struggle or are unable to express themselves verbally by combining the device with a speech synthesiser. Bone conduction hearing aids can assist people with troubles with the outer or middle ear. This technology might be paired with a real-time translator by using a natural language AI to translate the user’s subvocalizations into other languages, and translate foreign phrases into the user’s native tongue. More generally, this could be a signal of a more internal ‘second nature’ relationship with AI.