Print 20 comment(s) - last by John Allman.. on Mar 27 at 4:09 PM

Michael Callahan shows of the Audeo speech digitizer at the Texas Instruments convention. The device creates speech from nerve signals to your vocal cords, without you having to make a sound; and it fits snuggly with a suitcoat.  (Source: New Scientist)
It's not psychic, it's science; tapping into the inner voice of the human mind may be getting a lot closer than some think

With OCZ, Emotiv, and NeuroSky all releasing "brain mice" for consumer consumption, 2008 seems to be the year of brain control.  Furthering the theme, new groundbreaking research has been carried out in which an electronic "nerve tapper" reads signals to vocal cords and digitally voices the user's thoughts without a single word uttered by the user.

Ambient Corporation, an electronics startup, developed the device called the Audeo, recently showcased at a Texas Instruments conference.  The Audeo takes advantage of the fact that you can mentally picture voicing words, sending signals to your vocal cords, without physically voicing the word.  With training, a person can send these signals with ease.  These soundless signals are then picked up by Ambient's neckband which scans the vocal cord nerves.  The device wirelessly transmits the results to a computer, which processes them and yields digitized speech.

The Audeo does not vocalize all your thoughts, which a relief to some people who might fear it would reveal their fantasies or sarcastic observations.  It only vocalizes thoughts you concentrate on sending to your vocal cords.  The Audeo was used at the conference to carry out a telephone conversation.  It can also be used to control wheelchairs, through intuitively "voiced" directional commands.  This ability, which could help disabled people, was demonstrated earlier.

Ambient co-founder, Michael Callahan, discusses how the device requires a "a level above thinking" to activate, explaining, "I can still talk verbally at the same time.  We can differentiate between when you want to talk silently, and when you want to talk out loud."

Such a feature could be used to help people make private calls in public location.  Callahan likens the device, which is still in a rather primitive state to early speech recognition software.  The Audeo currently recognizes only 150 words and phrases.  At the end of the year Ambient plans to release a new version, which recognizes phonemes, the components of words, allowing it to do away with the word limit.  Input to the new version will be slow as users will have to mentally voice each phoneme, and it won't sound like natural speech. 

Still it may be very helpful for people who can't speak due to muscle or neurological conditions such as ALS, also known as motor neurone disease.   It could also be used for translation purposes -- imagine having a fluid soundless translation, without ever voicing your native tongue.

While the device in its current state offers up no threat of someone reading your thoughts against your will, the device does lead to the occasional paranoid pondering on how long it will take for full fledged mind-reading devices are employed by intelligence agencies worldwide. The future of mind controlled electronics is sure to lead to these and many other tough issues.

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By GhandiInstinct on 3/13/2008 4:53:15 PM , Rating: 5
Sitting behind a hot blonde on a bus just got a lot pun intended..

RE: wow
By AToZKillin on 3/13/2008 6:20:46 PM , Rating: 2
But wouldn't you have to have a phone conversation with her? The entire premise of this is that it keeps it digital until it reaches the intended source (the earpiece of the person on the other end of the phone).

But still I found your post rather funny :).

RE: wow
By theapparition on 3/14/2008 10:52:42 AM , Rating: 3
But what if your on the phone with your wife? My guess is she's not going to like your thoughts, and if she does.....well, why they hell aren't you at home then?

RE: wow
By splint on 3/13/2008 9:18:06 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder how hard it would be to stop yourself from inadvertently reading out loud...

Intergrate this with a cell phone
By OxBow on 3/13/2008 5:21:43 PM , Rating: 3
and give me some quiet time, please!

If people could have their cell phone conversations without having to yak away at the next table, this device would qualify for the Nobel Prize.

By murphyslabrat on 3/13/2008 6:46:37 PM , Rating: 3
Specifically, the peace prize

RE: Intergrate this with a cell phone
By Polynikes on 3/13/2008 9:40:37 PM , Rating: 3
Seriously. I cannot understand why people feel the need to shout on their stupid cell phones.

By BruceLeet on 3/14/2008 12:13:27 AM , Rating: 2
Theyre so tiny these days they cannot make an adequate phone that will pick up the speakers voice which is 5 inches away from the mouth. I hate that about mobiles these days, its not about the signal strength anymore its the other damn phone that isn't even catching a voice, which is why I tend to say 'WHAT, SPEAK LOUDER' and my gal has a soft voice so that makes the situation more frustrating.

VIP list.
By Mitch101 on 3/13/2008 5:43:25 PM , Rating: 5
If there is a waiting list I would hope they put Stephen Hawking's at the top.

RE: VIP list.
By Ammohunt on 3/14/2008 4:52:31 PM , Rating: 2
Funny thats the first person i thought of too

oh good lord no!
By kattanna on 3/13/2008 4:53:52 PM , Rating: 2
the last thing i want sometimes is what i want to say actually coming out of my mouth, instead of what i really say to the person.

i can see the divorce rate shooting up as well with this little device, LOL.

RE: oh good lord no!
By jlips6 on 3/13/2008 10:01:47 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think that this is so much of a problem. Let me try to put this in wording that makes sense. say hello out loud. now say it so softly that no one can hear you. now say it without speaking or moving your lips. same principle they're using here I would imagine. When you "say" hello in that final step, the device speaks. Thus, just thinking, "blah,blah,blah, will this guy ever shut up with his constant examples?" will not translate to speech, though you may think it. thinking the words "move arm" will not move your arm. this is the concept they are using.

I can see this evolving...
By 67STANG on 3/13/2008 6:57:05 PM , Rating: 2
With the natural progression of technology, voice to text interfacing with computers is becoming more accurate, but it is very difficult to use in a cubicle environment-- with all of the other noise and people talking, any kind of accuracy goes out the window.

Imagine being able to use this for data entry, programming, etc.

Of course the downside is that everyone using this for that purpose would look rather retarded staring blankly at their screen with no hand movement....

RE: I can see this evolving...
By SlyNine on 3/13/2008 10:26:28 PM , Rating: 2
Kinda like when you first got those wireless headsets that fit in one ear. You looked like you were walking around talking to your self.

By clovell on 3/13/2008 5:05:50 PM , Rating: 2
This is pretty cool - I can imagine police / military / intelligence using it for voiceless, motionless comms before mind control, though.

By omnicronx on 3/13/2008 8:37:38 PM , Rating: 2
Damnit.. right when water-boarding was becoming popular..

Wouldn't help people with ALS
By MateaMatt on 3/13/2008 11:13:47 PM , Rating: 2
Still it may be very helpful for people who can't speak due to muscle or neurological conditions such as ALS, also known as motor neurone disease.

Not really. ALS is caused by a failure of peripheral nerve conduction, so this the signals wouldn't reach the vocal cord nerves in people with advanced cases of ALS.

Brain control? Really?
By heulenwolf on 3/17/2008 12:37:46 PM , Rating: 2
Isn't there a better term than "brain control" that can be used to describe these devices? Its only a small step from "mind control" which will incite the tin foil hat crowd to riot and could kill the technology before its even released. Even a slight mod like "brain controlled" could more clearly describe them. How about "thought activated?"

By John Allman on 3/27/2008 4:09:10 PM , Rating: 2
This isn't exactly new in concept. The second paragraph of the Summary of the 1975 report by Dr Lawrence Pinneo entitled "Feasibility Study for Design of a Biocybernetic Communication System", published at, clarifies that subvocalised word recognition from the electrical activity of the muscles of the vocal apparatus had been demonstrated by 1972.

It must be at least three years ago that New Scientist ran a different story about another thought-operated telephone.

These stories serve a useful purpose for those who have less benign applications in mind, or already underway though poorly publicised. They act a "kite-flying" exercises, to test how threatening to human rights technology can become before the general public start raising ethical questions.

There is no a priori reason why, by adjustment of sensitivity, the technology reported cannot be abused to perpetrate non-consensual thought inference.

John Allman
+44 7930 519793

Back in my day...
By kileil on 3/13/08, Rating: 0
"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007
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