Digital telepathy?
March 15, 2008 7:43 PM   Subscribe

Nerve-tapping neckband used in 'telepathic' chat A neckband that translates thought into speech by picking up nerve signals has been used to demonstrate a "voiceless" phone call for the first time. Video. The technology has previously been demonstrated for guiding a wheelchair with thoughts. Company website.
posted by MythMaker (33 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Its pretty neat, even if there is a 5(?) second lag time and it only recognizes 150 words. If they're able to improve on it, however, eventually it could lead to a Universal Translator. Take that, Yahweh!
posted by Avenger at 8:05 PM on March 15, 2008

Someone please tell me Stephen Hawking is a beta tester. And if not, how we can make that happen.
posted by secret about box at 8:12 PM on March 15, 2008

That is the coolest thing I have seen in some time.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:18 PM on March 15, 2008

In the last few days this technology has come up in every extended conversation I've had. That's how amazing I consider this.
posted by artifarce at 8:21 PM on March 15, 2008

...but you'll only be able to fly by thinking in Russian.
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:28 PM on March 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Between this, which picks up speech thoughts, and the headsets that allow people to play videogames with only their thoughts, I'd say we are very close to being able to trivially interact with computers with only our thoughts.

We're not there yet, but it's shockingly close.

It boggles the mind.
posted by MythMaker at 8:41 PM on March 15, 2008

It's all good fun, until it starts creeping up the brainstem. You know those thoughts you have that you manage to catch before they make it out the lips? Yeah. Those thoughts. Want those caught by the robotelepathdogcollar and broadcast to the world? Or that nice person you're talking to/receiving your traffic fine from/trying to impress with your sophisticated erudition so you can get inside their grundies?

Choose one from (a) the truth will set you free, (b) go, go, go said the bird. Human kind cannot bear very much reality.
posted by Devonian at 8:41 PM on March 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

It will revolutionize interrogation!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:00 PM on March 15, 2008

Augmenting human knowledge with all the collective information that's on the internet sounds like an enormously dicey proposition to me. Which is about as close to a joke on this as I can come up with because holy fucking hell.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:06 PM on March 15, 2008

Between this, which picks up speech thoughts, and the headsets that allow people to play videogames with only their thoughts

The State Of The Art For The State Of Your Mind

It was cancelled because it gave people horrible headaches and was basically a crappy way to control games. What's next, the return of the Broderbund U-Force and the Power Glove? What's old is new again.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:13 PM on March 15, 2008

(And by the way, are we sure this isn't a hoax? If it were two weeks later...)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:13 PM on March 15, 2008

What's next, the return of […] the Power Glove?

posted by shakespeherian at 9:19 PM on March 15, 2008


Does it make you feel... bad?
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:24 PM on March 15, 2008

What's next, the return of […] the Power Glove?


Some friends of mine used to have a joke 80s cock-rock metal band. One of them performed onstage wearing a power glove, tights, and a stuffed Gonzo in his crotch. They should have been worldwide superstars, I'm tellin' ya.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:30 PM on March 15, 2008

... we are very close to being able to trivially interact with computers ...

Tea! Earl Grey! Hot!
posted by bwg at 9:48 PM on March 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

Finally... I'll have both hands free for browsing porn.
posted by Bugg at 10:23 PM on March 15, 2008

Big deal. I can interact with my bartender using only my left eyebrow.
posted by orthogonality at 11:54 PM on March 15, 2008

Combine this with bone conduction headphones and you could have a pretty neat underwater communication system.
posted by Pyry at 1:05 AM on March 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

A boon for stroke patients who have lost the power of speech, but not thought.
posted by Cranberry at 1:07 AM on March 16, 2008

I love living in the future. This is off-the-charts unbelievable.
posted by the jam at 1:44 AM on March 16, 2008

I'm way into technological advance.
This is more than just a little creepy.
posted by Fupped Duck at 1:52 AM on March 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

At least with cyborg technological fusion we don't have to worry about the singularity passing us up. Thanks neckband!
posted by iamck at 6:53 AM on March 16, 2008

I keep seeing the word as "neckbeard," which briefly fools me into thinking this technology will have chiefly gaming-related applications.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:04 AM on March 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I wonder if the ability to think in ways that produce easily read nerve signals will become an important skill in the future? Will being unable to do so be like having butterfingers? Since the signals used to communicate with this device don't get in the way of speaking aloud, will the truly talented be able to handle multiple conversations at once- giving them a natural advantage over everyone else?

It'd be interesting if, twenty years from now, typing 110 wpm is as useful as knowing how to fix a wagon wheel.
posted by Maxson at 9:46 AM on March 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

I get the feeling that this is very different from a trivial way to interact with computers. We spend our lives engaged in a kind of biofeedback, learning exactly what nerve does what. Retraining those nerves late in life can be very challenging.

I would imagine it would be similar to rehabilitation from a stroke. I've watched a lot of stroke victims try to use new pathways to close a fist (for example), and they get this look on their faces like their trying to solve a very difficult math problem in their head. (I've used this analogy with a few stroke victims who have agreed with me.) Eventually, it becomes second nature (for some), but it's a matter of a lot of work.

The effort involved in repurposing neural activity keeps most people away from this kind of technology. It just isn't worth the trouble for most people. A keyboard and mouse are good enough.

Where this technology matters is in the realm of medicine. To a person with a cervical spine injury, a good interface with machines can be the difference between lifelong frustration and an actualized life. More natural control of a prosthetic for an amputee can mean a healthier, more active life.
posted by nathan v at 1:02 PM on March 16, 2008

I already augment my mind. It's called the internet, books, etc... and the interface is surprisingly quick and effective, really. I just look at something -- oftentimes, something so small that it could fit in my pocket -- read symbols, and I have immediate access to a vast resource of information!

That said, it would be damn cool to have a future version of one of these interacting with some sort of online database to translate conversations automatically.
posted by markkraft at 1:09 PM on March 16, 2008

Toward the end of the video, where he posits what are essentially thought-triggered queries (he uses the example of, "Where is there a bus stop around here?"), the possibilities get a lot more interesting.

It will revolutionize interrogation!

I don't think so- you still need deliberate intent to trigger it. Imagine, though, using it as a comm tool for a military squad on a stealth mission. Or any kind of undercover agent, for that matter.

The first people to figure out how to turn it into a fashion accessory will cause a serious disruption in high schools.
posted by mkultra at 2:02 PM on March 16, 2008

nathan v -

Well, if the kids on my lawn with their damn text-messagers are any indication, it's the younger generation who will adopt the newest, most disruptive technologies first. And, if their neural pathways are still growing and evolving, they may find it easier to use the mind reading digital technologies than their elders.

Much like the way that many (not all, but most) 80 or 90 year olds have trouble even figuring out the Internet beyond the very simplest things, it may be that an older generation gets locked out of evolving technologies that are controlled by the central nervous system.

In 50 years, perhaps there will no longer be a need to move even our fingers as we become one with the machine...

Plus, the point they were making is that this is still a young technology, much like early speech recognition. It may be that in future iterations that the ability of the technology to read your thoughts becomes far more effective.
posted by MythMaker at 3:44 PM on March 16, 2008

Incredible. I have bene observig this technology for some time and think it will be very significant in our future lives
posted by richdan at 5:44 PM on March 16, 2008

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posted by CynicalKnight at 6:08 PM on March 16, 2008

I hope they can make this useable for patients without fully functional vocal cords. My cousin who suffered tremendous brain damage a few years ago, still can't talk. However, he is able to indicate his thoughts by pointing at letters with his fingers. A commercial or medical version of this device would absolutely change his and his parents' lives.
posted by chime at 9:49 PM on March 16, 2008

Well, at least this will help to minimize my confusion when dealing with random strangers who 1.) might be suffering from schizophrenia and are currently talking to the voices in their heads, or 2.) people with really discrete Bluetooth headsets.

I'll be able to tell the difference because the voiceless headset people will be the ones gesticulating wildly without making a sound. Finally, something that me and the schizophrenic guy can both stand and watch together with some amusement.

I look forward to this.

Really, it's pretty freakin' cool when you think of the possible implementations.
posted by quin at 10:28 AM on March 17, 2008

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