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Communications Science Technology

Nerve-tapping Neckband Allows 'Telepathic' Chat 205

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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  • Best Aspect (Score:3, Informative)

    by LaskoVortex ( 1153471 ) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @02:38AM (#22736546)
    Since the device presumably requires contact with a person to use, this should effectively eliminate annoying background noises from public places, busses, etc., and it would also eliminate the echo effect that some headsets have (where you can hear yourself echoed in your own earplug). In fact, using these with normal talking should work just as well so you could reap these benefits without training. Now--if they could make a decent earplug with good volume and sound reproduction, we'd be all set.
  • by BigAssRat ( 724675 ) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @02:46AM (#22736570)
    Seems like a pretty cool idea, but how are you supposed to interpret letters that come out the same but are fundamentally the same from the beginning? I would think that from the vocal cord stand point many sounds are almost, if not entirely, identical but the lips and mouth movements vary the pitch. How is this device going to tell the difference in those if it is reading the vocal cords?
  • by stas2k ( 951288 ) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @04:42AM (#22736956) Homepage
    This weekend I saw a similar device at CeBit. It allowed to input text into computer using you eyes only. You would look at on-screen keyboard and the letters to witch your eyes are pointed would be typed in. I seemed very Sci-Fi like ;). After my colleague took a photo of the device, we looked at the photo, and saw two infrared windows. One scanned vertically, other horizontally. It seems that it simply triangulated your eye position. So simple, yet brilliant. It makes computer accessible to people with motor disability.
  • by kurisuto ( 165784 ) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:38AM (#22737482) Homepage
    "Chords" are in music. The structures in the larynx are "cords" as in rope.
  • by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @09:09AM (#22738040) Journal
    > It's not quite telepathy, but it's pretty close.

    Jaheezus criminy, must people make /. look so 14 year old golly gee whiz?

    It's absolutely nothing like telepathy. The band is picking up electrical signals in the muscles (called EMG: electromyography) controlling the vocal cords . They can react to reading silently, particularly if you read something "out loud to yourself". If you imagine your own voice while reading something or even imagine speaking, this will happen. It's called subvocalization, and the muscle movements are similar to, but not the same as, speech. That's why the device can differentiate between spoken and "silent" speech. This has been known for decades. Someone has managed to build something that decodes the signals into something like the original words being read or imagined.

    There is no transmission of anything, much less thoughts. Although a novel approach, this is simply another human-machine interface. And one that I'll wager will require fairly extensive training for each individual using it, including training it to read them in different physiological states.

    The article was worth reporting here without the crap in the last sentence of the summary. I sincerely hope that crap was not what got it approved.
  • Re:Telepathy (Score:3, Informative)

    by dancpsu ( 822623 ) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @01:44PM (#22741314) Journal
    You seriously don't understand how this works. When you think about doing something, like riding a bike or throwing a baseball, signals get sent to your muscles that would accomplish the task. Why don't you do everything you think about then? Because these signals are much too weak to actually trigger the muscles.

    What is ingenious is applying this to word-thoughts. When you read or write or think about something in words, there are these same signals being sent to your vocal cords. They aren't strong enough to move a muscle, but they can be detected by sensitive enough electrodes. You won't even get the Ender's Game style jaw movement, because there is no movement. Did you move your jaw, tongue, or lips while reading this? Of course not. But this collar can pick up every word.

    The difficulty is though, that while there is enough information to make out what a person is saying, it doesn't get every muscle you move, so a neural network has to translate the nerve impulses back into easy to understand speech.

    Theoretically, a whole body-suit could be made with these sensors and not just interpret voice thoughts, but action-thoughts as well. You could control a character in a video game just by thinking about what you want it to do, and it could match your every thought-move, muscle by muscle.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal