by Vanessa Bates Ramirez, Singularity Hub
The way we interact with the technology in our lives is getting progressively more seamless. If typing terms or addresses into your phone wasn’t easy enough, now you can just tell Siri to do the search or pull up the directions for you. Don’t feel like getting off the couch to flick a switch, or want your house to be lit up by the time you pull into your driveway? Just tell your Echo home assistant what you want, and presto—lights on.
Engineers have been working on various types of brain-machine interfaces to take this seamlessness one step further, be it by measuring activity in the visual cortex to recreate images, or training an algorithm to “speak” for paralyzed patients based on their brain activation patterns.
Last week at the Association for Computing Machinery’s ACM Intelligent User Interface conference in Tokyo, a team from MIT Media Lab unveiled AlterEgo, a wearable interface that “reads” the words users are thinking—without the users having to say anything out loud.
If you thought Google Glass was awkward-looking, AlterEgo’s not much sleeker; the tech consists of a white plastic strip that hooks over the ear and extends below the jaw, with an additional attachment placed just under the wearer’s mouth. The strip contains electrodes that pick up neuromuscular signals, which are released when the user thinks of a certain word, silently “saying” it inside his or her head. A machine learning system then interprets the signals and identifies which words the user had in mind—and, amazingly, it does so correctly 92 percent of the time.
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