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US firm demos 'thought into speech' neckband

Giving voice to the voiceless

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A US firm has demonstrated a "thought into speech" neckband which converts nerve signals to the vocal cords into a computer-generated voice.

Michael Callahan, co-founder of Ambient Corporation, showed off his device, dubbed the "Audeo", at the recent TI Developer Conference 2008, in Dallas:

Using the Audeo, which currently has a limited vocabulary of 150 words, requires "careful training", New Scientist notes. Callahan explained that producing signals the Audeo can decipher requires "a level above thinking", and that users "must think specifically about voicing words for them to be picked up by the equipment".

Ambient Corporation now plans to extend the Audeo's lexicon by allowing it to identify individual phonemes - a process which, although slower because users "will need to build up what they want to say one phoneme at a time", will offer an unlimited vocabulary.

Practical applications of the Audeo include the possibility of making private phone calls in public, or giving voice to those who have lost the ability to speak. The phoneme-based Audeo is aimed primarily at the latter, such as sufferers of motor neurone disease, New Scientist concludes.

Bootnote

The Audeo has also been used to control a wheelchair, as you can see here.

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