MIT’s new headset can read thoughts and transcribe them

MIT’s new headset can read thoughts and transcribe them
Arnav Kapur a graduate student at MIT Media Lab demonstrates the ‘AlterEgo’ device. Photo: Lorrie Lejeune/MIT

MIT’s new headset can read thoughts and transcribe them

Researchers at MIT have created a wearable device that can read people’s minds when they use an internal voice, allowing them to control devices and ask questions without speaking.

The device which is called AlterEgo can transcribe words that wearers verbalise internally but do not say out loud, using electrodes attached to the skin.

Developed by Arnav Kapur, a graduate student at MIT Media Lab, the technology uses a headset, worn around the jaw and chin, clipped over the top of the ear to hold it in place. Four electrodes under the white plastic device make contact with the skin and pick up the subtle neuromuscular signals that are triggered when a person verbalises internally. When someone says words inside their head, the device matches particular signals to particular words, feeding them into a computer.

“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?” said Kapur in MIT news.

“We basically can’t live without our cellphones, our digital devices. But at the moment, the use of those devices is very disruptive,” said Pattie Maes, a professor of media arts and sciences at MIT.

“If I want to look something up that’s relevant to a conversation I’m having, I have to find my phone and type in the passcode and open an app and type in some search keyword, and the whole thing requires that I completely shift attention from my environment and the people that I’m with to the phone itself”, she added.

So far the results have yielded a 92 per cent successful translation result.


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