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Dystopian Headset From MIT Designed To Record Your "Silent Speech"

by Natalie Daher

Photography by MIT Media Lab

Wearables are edging closer to science fiction, brought to you by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Alter Ego prototype, which resembles a white headset, is under development at MIT’s Media Lab. The device is connected to a computing system, which uses electrodes to translate words you mouth — observe your jaw motion when you say “water” — into actual, verbalized speech. The device, which is developed by graduate student Arnav Kapur, includes “bone-conduction headphones “ that sit outside the ear so they don’t disrupt conversation.

Another notable function: the device links to Google, so wearers can ask questions and receive answers. A device like Alter Ego could increase access to online information and be particularly valuable for people who experience memory loss, and connect users to smart devices like Amazon Alexa or Google Home.

The goal is to “further ‘combine humans and computers,’” Kapur told Popular Science. The device could be promising for people with disabilities or paralysis, as Pop Sci notes, but MIT hasn’t studied Alter Ego for that purpose yet.

The team at MIT isn’t currently accepting test subjects. But users who participated devoted around 31 hours to training the device on their internal speech patterns.

Read Kapur’s full research paper here.

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