Alter Ego: This student gives computer commands with the voice in his head!
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MIT Media Lab
Image: MIT Media Lab

Alter Ego: This student gives computer commands with the voice in his head!

MIT student Arnav Kapur has developed a technology that allows him to communicate with his computer without speaking or typing in commands. Instead, he only has to formulate the command internally. A newly developed device called Alter Ego then captures the order and sends it to a computer via Bluetooth. This, in turn, can give a possibly desired answer via a headset. Concretely, pizza can be ordered. Kapur just has to think about ordering “salami pizza” – and gets a list of available delivery services. The technique also works on many other topics and should now be able to correctly interpret 92 percent of the commands never pronounced.

The computer can help with mental arithmetic

Can the device actually read your mind? Fortunately, it is not quite that far yet. Rather, the trick works only when the computer user wears a kind of headset that reaches from the neck to the chin. As a result, minimal movements of the muscles can be detected, which arise when you speak inwardly with yourself. The perceived changes are then sent to a computer where they are evaluated using algorithms. The more often this is communicated, the higher the number of correct interpretations will be. With the technology, many funny applications can be realized. For example, your own skills in mental arithmetic can be supported by the computer. At home on the couch could also have the search for the remote control to an end.

Regular use makes the system better and better

It is also interesting that theoretically, two people can communicate with each other without speaking or writing. For when both have an alter ego on their faces, the thoughts can be captured and passed on to the other person by the computer voice. Theoretically, of course, this could benefit people who have not been able to express themselves – or only with great difficulty – linguistically. So far, however, the system recognizes only relatively few phrases. Regular use should increase the active and passive vocabulary soon. A challenge is also ahead of the developers: So far, the technology alone is not suitable for everyday use due to the size of the device. Also at this point, the developers have already announced improvements.

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