Nerve-tapping neckband used in 'telepathic' chat

Movie Camera
  • 17:23 12 March 2008
  • NewScientist.com news service
  • Tom Simonite
Printable versionEmail to a friendRSS FeedSyndicate
The world's first "voiceless" phone call took place thanks to a neckband that converts nerve impulses into speech (footage courtesy Texas Instruments)
Tools
digg thisAdd My YahooAdd Google Reader reddit submitNewsvineciteulike submit

A neckband that translates thought into speech by picking up nerve signals has been used to demonstrate a "voiceless" phone call for the first time.

With careful training a person can send nerve signals to their vocal cords without making a sound. These signals are picked up by the neckband and relayed wirelessly to a computer that converts them into words spoken by a computerised voice.

A video (right) shows the system being used to place the first public voiceless phone call on stage at a recent conference held by microchip manufacturer Texas Instruments. Michael Callahan, co-founder of Ambient Corporation, which developed the neckband, demonstrates the device, called the Audeo.

Users needn't worry about that the system voicing their inner thoughts though. Callahan says producing signals for the Audeo to decipher requires "a level above thinking". Users must think specifically about voicing words for them to be picked up by the equipment.

The Audeo has previously been used to let people control wheelchairs using their thoughts. Watch a video demonstrating thought control of wheelchairs

"I can still talk verbally at the same time," Callahan told New Scientist. "We can differentiate between when you want to talk silently, and when you want to talk out loud." That could be useful in certain situations, he says, for example when making a private call while out in public.

The system demonstrated at the TI conference can recognise only a limited set of about 150 words and phrases, says Callahan, who likens this to the early days of speech recognition software.

At the end of the year Ambient plans to release an improved version, without a vocabulary limit. Instead of recognising whole words or phrases, it should identify the individual phonemes that make up complete words.

This version will be slower, because users will need to build up what they want to say one phoneme at a time, but it will let them say whatever they want. The phoneme-based system will be aimed at people who have lost the ability to speak due to neurological diseases like ALS also known as motor neurone disease.

Comment subject
Comment
No HTML except lower case italic tags or lower case bold tags, please:
<i> or <b>
Your name
Your email
 

We need your email in case we need to contact you about the comment. We will not use it for any other purpose.

 
 
There are 49 comments on 6 pages
1  | 
2  | 
3  | 
4  | 
5  | 
6
 | Next
 | Most Recent
 | See all

Brain Waves

By James

Wed Mar 12 20:04:05 GMT 2008

A lot of people who have lost the control of their muscles through stroke or brain injuries may actually be able to communicate through these.

I wonder if this would have allowed Trery Schiavo to say what she thought about her husband?

REPORT | REPLY

Brain Waves

By Munin

Thu Mar 13 05:13:59 GMT 2008

Not likely, being as she was more or less braindead.

It's going to be more useful for people with operating brains, like Stephen Hawking.

REPORT | REPLY

Brain Waves

By Name

Thu Mar 13 05:55:31 GMT 2008

Not even "more or less" braindead.

As the autopsy explicitly showed, there was no thinking brain tissue left. It had all died and rotted away long long ago.

REPORT | REPLY

Brain Waves

By Nh Dem

Thu Mar 13 21:02:09 GMT 2008

Oh. That's a problem?

Well, so much for my idea of using this technology to make the Prezdint's utterances comprehensible, then.

REPORT | REPLY

Brain Waves

By Rob

Fri Mar 28 04:49:49 GMT 2008

Nope - his larynx had to be surgically removed - no muscles, no nerves.

REPORT | REPLY

Brain Waves

By Steady

Thu Mar 13 18:46:27 GMT 2008

Terry Shiavo had no frontal lobe brain activity. All she had was brain stem or base level brain function so there were no higher level cognitive ability which is required for thoughts..or speech. .But, hopefully this technology will help a LOT of people in need.

REPORT | REPLY

Brain Waves

By Peter

Mon Mar 17 22:47:52 GMT 2008

Oh my God. Is that the first thing you thought of? I feel extremely bad for you.

REPORT | REPLY

By

Wed Mar 12 20:04:32 GMT 2008

REPORT | REPLY

Steven Hawkins Notified?

By George

Wed Mar 12 21:25:02 GMT 2008

So the obvious question is have they called Steven Hawkin?

REPORT | REPLY

Steven Hawkins Notified?

By Jtrain

Thu Mar 13 17:24:39 GMT 2008

No, because he doesn't have a phone calling neckband.

REPORT | REPLY

Steven Hawkins Notified?

By Tim C

Fri Mar 14 00:34:04 GMT 2008

Well they should be working on a wristband to pick up FiNgeR motion. Then you have a keypad, mouse, maybe keyboard

REPORT | REPLY

There are 49 comments on 6 pages
1  | 
2  | 
3  | 
4  | 
5  | 
6
 | Next
 | Most Recent
 | See all

All comments should respect the New Scientist House Rules. If you think a particular comment breaks these rules then please use the "Report" link in that comment to report it to us.

If you are having a technical problem posting a comment, please contact technical support.

Printable versionEmail to a friendRSS FeedSyndicate
Cover of latest issue of New Scientist magazine
  • For exclusive news and expert analysis every week subscribe to New Scientist Print Edition
  • For what's in New Scientist magazine this week see contents
  • Search all stories
  • Contact us about this story
  • Sign up for our free newsletter
Subscriber Login
Subscriptions