MIT researchers have invented a system that allows someone to communicate silently and privately with a computer or the internet by simply thinking — without requiring any facial muscle movement.
The AlterEgo system consists of a wearable device with electrodes that pick up otherwise undetectable neuromuscular subvocalizations — saying words “in your head” in natural language. The signals are fed to a neural network that is trained to identify subvocalized words from these signals. Bone-conduction headphones also transmit vibrations through the bones of the face to the inner ear to convey information to the user — privately and without interrupting a conversation. The device connects wirelessly to any external computing device via Bluetooth.
A silent, discreet, bidirectional conversation with machines. “Our idea was: Could we have a computing platform that’s more internal, that melds human and machine in some ways and that feels like an internal extension of our own cognition?,” says Arnav Kapur, a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab who led the development of the new system. Kapur is first author on an open-access paper on the research presented in March at the IUI ’18 23rd International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces.