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Communications Science Technology

Nerve-tapping Neckband Allows 'Telepathic' Chat 205

Posted by samzenpus
from the mouth-of-cyber-sauron dept.
ZonkerWilliam writes "Newscientist has an interesting article on tapping the nerve impulses going from the brain to the vocal chords, allowing for 'Voiceless' phone calls. "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 computerized voice." It's not quite telepathy, but it's pretty close."
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Nerve-tapping Neckband Allows 'Telepathic' Chat

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  • Great technology (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bondsbw (888959) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @02:25AM (#22736480)

    Combine this with text-to-speech and wireless headphones, you have an effective non-vocal (and two-way) communication system that doesn't require the use of the hands or the knowledge of surrounding personnel.

    The military uses, as well as civilian, are probably limitless. Of course, we're now one step closer to making it impossible to detect cheating on tests, and similar scenarios.

  • Real Telepathy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @02:27AM (#22736496) Homepage Journal
    Putting aside the "magic" aspect of telepathy that most SciFi authors seem to strive for, I have often considered how telepathy might look if it were a feature of a real species of creature. What I came up with is surprisingly realistic, though it lacks the charm of SciFi style telepathy.

    The way I see it, telepathy is basically wireless communications. A species that "spoke" telepathically to one another in close proximity could use radio waves to communicate in an omnidirectional fashion. For high enough wavelengths, a nerve center acting as an antenna could be exposed from nearly any location on the body. (Possibly metallic in nature?) By modulating the frequency range used to "speak", a creature could become louder or quieter, effectively maintaining the type of privacy we humans enjoy with a whisper rather than a shout.

    Of course, the disadvantage becomes immediately clear. There's no mind-reading involved. No cool body-takeovers, no telekinesis developing, nothing but a simple method of communication that is alien to us, yet accomplishes approximately the same task as human speech.

    It's fun to think that "telepathy is the next stage of human evolution", but there are no obvious physics to support the SciFi interpretation of telepathy. (Especially when you get into telekinesis, which requires WAY more energy than the human body can produce!) What physics does allow us is slightly more boring, but none the less an interesting concept to explore. :-)
  • Re:Real Telepathy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Smordnys s'regrepsA (1160895) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @02:39AM (#22736548) Journal
    I liked the comment, but

    Especially when you get into telekinesis, which requires WAY more energy than the human body can produce!

    [citation needed]

    A mother can produce enough force to lift the back end of a car off her kid. Why would you assume that by gaining the magical power of TK, I would somehow only be able to produce less force?
  • by Jim Ethanol (613572) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @03:35AM (#22736738) Homepage
    This tech was described in a fair amount of detail in the 1990 book "Earth" [amazon.com] by David Brin.


    Quote from Earth: "She took a subvocal input device from its rack and placed the attached sensors on her throat, jaw, and temples. A faint glitter in the display screens meant the machine was already tracking her eyes, noting by curvature of lens and angle of pupil the exact spot on which she focused at any moment.

    She didn't have to speak aloud, only intend to. The subvocal read nerve signals, letting her enter words by just beginning to will them. It was much faster than any normal speech input device... and more cantankerous as well. Jen adjusted the sensitivity level so it wouldn't pick up each tiny tremor - a growing problem as her once athletic body turned wiry and inexact with age. Still, she vowed to hold onto this rare skill as long as possible."

    Once again Sci Fi pwns reality...

  • Re:Not even close (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ceroklis (1083863) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @03:38AM (#22736750)
    That's a ridiculous argument. If telepathy is a form of communication, the brain still needs to have an input where it receive the information from the other brain. How is this input different from a "sensory apparatus"? Your definition of telepathy implies its impossibility, and is thus useless.

    Or perhaps you consider that a device taping to the cochlear nerve is not part of the brain. Then what if the device was installed inside the cranium, directly connected to neurons, would you call it telepathy now ? If not where is the boundary ?

    If you insist that the "brain" in you definition is a non-modified human brain then the question is quickly settled: telepathy doesn't exist. Therefore debating whether something is or is not telepathy is pointless.
  • Sir Fred Hoyle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jd (1658) <imipak@yaCOLAhoo.com minus caffeine> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @04:00AM (#22736832) Homepage Journal
    As much as I dislike his oil-from-volcanos and continuous-creation ideas, he did come up with some interesting sci-fi, especially in the area you're talking about. One of his stories, "The Black Cloud", hypothesises beings with immense bandwidth between individuals and discusses at length the impact of bandwidth on individualism and communications. It also suggests the impact of very high-bandwidth communication from such an individual to the human mind (the human mind might initially be taken over but would rapidly fry).
  • by jhoger (519683) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @04:19AM (#22736888) Homepage

    And, OSC's Speaker For The Dead (1986).

    -- John.

  • Re:Throat mikes? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kcelery (410487) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:05AM (#22737380)
    The throat mikes is useful when you are riding on a F15. A neckband signal pickup is useful in scuba gears.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:06AM (#22737384) Journal
    Walk into high school math class at 9:45, pop quiz says the teacher, reads the questions, pausing for 30 seconds after each one, computer whirring in the corner, at 10:05 the teacher announces "Well, since 6 of you failed today we are going to study xyz"

    Once communication is set to bits and bytes things can go a lot faster. At least in some circumstances. Speed dating might get a whole new power setting from this and some vital sign stats.

    I can see quite a few things changing radically when you don't have to the have the social clutter of one person talking at a time.
  • Re:Great technology (Score:-1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:20AM (#22737422)

    The military uses
    Indeed. Although you have to train to do this well, iirc there is always some leakage to the vocal nerves when something is internally vocalised but not actually said. The potential value of this in torture^W coercive interrogations is obvious and probably already under evaluation.
  • Hawking (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PinkyGigglebrain (730753) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @09:53AM (#22738494)
    I wonder if something like this could help Steve Hawking? His brain is still working but the nerves controlling his body have degenerated.

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. -- Nero Wolfe

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