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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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  • Throat mikes? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:20AM (#22736460) Journal
    roughly transcribed by me:

    "One of them, that we're developing is a usage scenario that we call 'the smartest man in the room'. We capture the activity that a person wants to say and translate that into speech and use that speech to query search engines."
    Wouldn't a throat mic be easier to use? No specialized training required?
  • Not even close (Score:1, Insightful)

    by EdIII (1114411) * on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:26AM (#22736482)

    It's not quite telepathy, but it's pretty close.


    The definition of Telepathy - apparent communication from one mind to another without using sensory perceptions.

    Since there is a computer, a speaker, and the other persons ears involved, this is not even remotely close to being telepathy.
  • Re:Throat mikes? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nacturation (646836) <nacturation AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:32AM (#22736510) Journal

    Wouldn't a throat mic be easier to use? No specialized training required?
    Ability to use vocal chords required. Otherwise, Stephen Hawking would have been using one of those long ago.
     
  • by sporkme (983186) * on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:47AM (#22736574) Homepage
    Yes, this is absolutely amazing, and that a "backdoor hack" solution to the problem of "telepathic" communication and mobility is so promising is a testament to our ingenuity as a species. Great work! Please, though, let the commercial demand$ for entertainment and convenience devices $ubsidize the need for mobility and communication devices that disabled people need.

    If you RTFA and watch a linked video, you will see a wheelchair controlled by thought. The the current iteration is rough and inaccurate, and the user must undergo training to the device, but I'd hope that the promise of provision and the simplicity of design in form and function will make this a real winner with further development. Reverse it: once the device can be trained to the user, we have a deployable thought-control system that uses our favorite external neural pathway, speech.

    Accolades to the designers... I think we have a real winner here based on the proofs-of-concept, and with further development we will be better off is both convenience and humanitarianism.
  • by seanbruckman (637280) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:51AM (#22736590)

    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.
    Oh, i see. So it will take a hundred years to perfect? Can't wait. Really.
  • Re:Not even close (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sporkme (983186) * on Thursday March 13, 2008 @02:18AM (#22736668) Homepage
    Closest to ~telepathy~ we'll live to see... cynic. I won't be satisfied until I can actually communicate with my mind alone. Implants into my brain and straps on my neck do not qualify. Teach me to actually send my thoughts unaided! No, dammit, I don't want to use a tinfoil satellite dish! It is not telepathy unless my flesh can actually just broadcast my thoughts. That'll be the day...

    Put down the weed, the dictionary and the Ray Bradbury! Don't dismiss a breakthrough just because it is not 80th century and is tagged as (not literal) telepathy. These guys have worked hard to develop a system that brilliantly answers a big question involving the transformation of thought to the physical world. Lower your cynic shield and watch the wheelchair video (linked in TFA). Have you even known a person with useless or missing legs? Arms? With this they could move about as freely as we "normies" do, utilizing simple vocal gestures. This is a major breakthrough, undeserving of lampooning.

    --Not too sure about driving cars though. Or voting. Or intermarriage. Freaks.-- /sarcasm
  • Re:Ventriloquism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thedrx (1139811) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @02:30AM (#22736716)
    Ventriloquism is the ability to 'talk with your stomach'. I never saw any ventriloquist do their stuff over 1000s of miles, either.
  • by Jens Egon (947467) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @02:36AM (#22736740)
    Just because his prior art has prior art doesn't mean it's not prior art.
  • by timmarhy (659436) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @02:51AM (#22736792)
    .... is more opertunities for people to talk, because frankly the internet has shown my that people mostly talk shit.
  • Slips of the mind (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nullav (1053766) <moc@l[ ]g.valluN ['iam' in gap]> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @03:20AM (#22736890)
    Before going near such a device, I want to know how likely I am to slip up and say what I'm thinking instead of just what I want to say. With my actual vocal cords, I still need to open my mouth to stick my foot in it.
  • Re:Ventriloquism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DeadDecoy (877617) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @03:24AM (#22736904)
    Yes but there's a big difference between ventriloquism and the content in the main post. In ventriloquism you're still vocalizing the words while giving the illusion that you're not. In this case you are not making vocal sounds but rather, sending neuron signals to a computer to do the talking for you. It's a hell of a lot closer to telepathy than you might think.
  • Re:Ventriloquism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fred_A (10934) <fred@freIIIdshome.org minus threevowels> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @04:05AM (#22737024) Homepage

    Yes but there's a big difference between ventriloquism and the content in the main post. In ventriloquism you're still vocalizing the words while giving the illusion that you're not. In this case you are not making vocal sounds but rather, sending neuron signals to a computer to do the talking for you. It's a hell of a lot closer to telepathy than you might think.
    Like the GP, I don't see assisted wireless ventriloquism as being any closet to telepathy than Hawking's rig is. Easier to use and carry around, certainly, but that's about it. It doesn't read sounds, it's another interface to drive a speech synthesizer. It's interesting because it could be a much more natural one, although the "training required" bit is problematic but we can probably expect that to get better. And that non-invasive hands-free interface can of course potentially be used to drive lots of other things.
  • Re:Ventriloquism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cp.tar (871488) <cp.tar.bz2@gmail.com> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @05:40AM (#22737316) Journal

    It's interesting because it could be a much more natural one, although the "training required" bit is problematic but we can probably expect that to get better.

    As any tool, it needs to be trained with to use properly.

    Most of our computer troubles are PEBKAC, i.e. untrained users.
    "Easy to use" doesn't have to mean (and shouldn't be supposed to mean) "easy to use the very first time you use it with no training whatsoever". That's intuitive.
    Notepad is intuitive; vi is easy to use. Once you learn to use it, of course.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:45AM (#22737516)

    Of course, we're now one step closer to making it impossible to detect cheating on tests, and similar scenarios.

    That just means tests will now have to pass or fail groups of people in a Faraday cage, then jumble the group(s) up for another similar test. Perhaps businesses of the future might like to hire small groups of people that can share knowledge efficiently enough to ace a test...

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:32AM (#22737744)

    ... reads the questions, pausing for 30 seconds after each one, computer whirring in the corner ... Speed dating might get a whole new power setting from this ... 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.

    That social clutter is crucial to the dating process; unless you're looking for instant-computer-dating with a different input method.

  • Curious (Score:2, Insightful)

    by joeyblades (785896) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:19AM (#22738152)
    First, this is still a long way from telepathy.

    Second, there seems to be a big problem with latency.

    Third, something seems fishy about this demonstration. The timber of your voice, inflection, accent, most of the recognizable aspects involve the movement of air over the vocal chords. Yet somehow, supposedly without air moving across the demonstrators vocal chords, the output sounded just like his speaking voice, including normal dynamic range. That's some computer algorithm! Much, much better than any prior text-to-speech technology available. I mean, if I didn't know better, I would swear that we were merely hearing pre-recorded clips... oh wait... I guess I don't know better.
  • Re:Not even close (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mentorix (620009) <slashdot@benben.com> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @08:45AM (#22738382)

    a big question involving the transformation of thought to the physical world
    Would you care to demonstrate that thought isn't part of the physical world first? Thought just isn't exactly understood, that doesn't mean it's not just a physical and natural process like EVERYTHING else we know anything about.
  • Re:Telepathy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spun (1352) <loverevolutionar ... minus physicist> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @09:22AM (#22738804) Journal
    This isn't determining the meaning of a thought, it's the meaning of a vocal nerve impulse. Meaning, if someone who didn't speak English was taught to sing the Star Spangled Banner, this thing would be able to determine what words they were singing, even though they didn't know what they were. Previous experiments have shown that (for instance) anyone subvocalizing an 'aaaaa' sound makes the same recognizable nerve impulses.
  • Re:Ventriloquism (Score:-1, Insightful)

    by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:38AM (#22739694) Journal
    Wow, you are either poor at seeing conceptual similarities, or have a very rigid definition of what counts as "close to telepathy". I'd say that if, to an observer, it's identical to telepathy, then that's pretty damn close to telepathy!

    Real telepathy: Without visibly communicating, Alice transmits information to Bob's mind.

    This device + inner-ear receiver: Without visibly communicating, Alice transmits information to Bob's mind.

    The technology is "sufficiently advanced" for reasons I'm sure you're familiar with [1].

    [1] or if you're not, "Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." -- some sci-fi writer

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