AlterEgo – A wearable device that responds to your thoughts

MIT researchers have just come up with an interesting wearable device. This device has a unique capability to recognize all your nonverbal prompts! In other words it can just read your mind! As it works on your thoughts, researchers have named it “AlterEgo”! The device uses a special system that has to be looped around the user’s ear. It then goes down the jaw line and one has to fix it underneath the mouth and it is finally attached to a computer system. If you are wondering why to wear it this way, it is simply because it needs read the neuromuscular signals. To simply put it needs to be near your mind to read your mind!

When we first heard about the wearable device, smartwatch is the first things comes in mind. But don’t worry this is not a smartwatch it something different which you never thought.

The device includes electrodes that gather the neuromuscular signals from your jaw and face which get triggered when you internally verbalize your words or in other words when you speak in your head. These neuromuscular signals keep working while you are thinking or talking to yourself in silence but they could not be seen by human eyes. However, this little device is capable of picking them up.

The device first collects all the signals and then analyzes them and creates a data which associates signals that are specific for different words. Creating this device included figuring out where the most dependable neuromuscular signals are located on a human face. And to locate them, the researchers had to ask their subjects “to sub-vocalize the same series of words four times,” and to finally detect the signals they used 16 electrodes at different locations on the subjects’ faces. Once the signals were detected, special code to analyze the data was generated. This led to an interesting result that on most human faces, nonverbal words could be recognized at seven particular places. Thus, the wearable device, namely, AlterEgo uses sensors for these specific locations.

Also, the system used in the device has further capability of communicating with the user through a pair of “bone-conducting headphones” which transmits vibrations from the user’s face to the ear. The headphones on the device are one of the most intelligent parts of the device! They efficiently convey the message to the user without any interruption to their conversation or hearing.

Notably, the researchers are still working on the device to make it work in the same way using only four sensors located along the jaw.

What made the researchers work toward the creation of this unique device?

“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 MIT Media Lab graduate student cum researcher, Arnav Kapur in a statement.

However, there is still a lot more to do in developing a device with which a user can have complete conversation. The researchers have already tested the device with various different set of tasks. From playing chess to doing basic mathematical calculations like multiplication and addition, the device did well. But it is still limited to a vocabulary of just 20 words. The device is pretty intelligent but is still limited to a vocabulary of only 20 words and shows an accuracy level of 92% with those words. But researchers are pretty happy with the results and are quite optimistic about developing it to entirely new level.

“We’re in the middle of collecting data, and the results look nice. I think we’ll achieve full conversation some day,” says Kapur.  The device is already doing pretty well in handling simple little tasks. It works really well in controlling the selection on a TV for selecting the movie that user wants to watch. You can watch how it works in the video.

Once the device reaches the ability to hold an entire conversation, it will be able to do amazing things. Researchers find it to hold a lot of potential for useful future applications such as helping people with disabilities as it works in noisy environments well. So, it could be relied upon even on an aircraft flight deck which is a highly noisy place.

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AlterEgo – A wearable device that responds to your thoughts

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