The Brain-Computer Interfaces That Could Give Locked-In Patients a Voice | Innovation

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By recording activity of specific neurons in the brain, researchers aim to pick up signals of intended speech.
Knowable Magazine

In Alexandre Dumas’s classic novel The Count of Monte Cristo, a character named Monsieur Noirtier de Villefort suffers a terrible stroke that leaves him paralyzed. Though he remains awake and aware, he is no longer able to move or speak, relying on his granddaughter Valentine to recite the alphabet and flip through a dictionary to find the letters and words he requires. With this rudimentary form of communication, the determined old man manages to save Valentine from being poisoned by her stepmother and thwart his son’s attempts to marry her off against her will.

Dumas’s portrayal of this catastrophic condition—where, as he puts it, “the soul is trapped in a body that no longer obeys its commands”—is one of the earliest descriptions of locked-in syndrome. This form of profound paralysis occurs when the brain stem is damaged, usually because of a stroke but also as the result of tumors, traumatic brain injury, snakebite, substance abuse, infection or neurodegenerative diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The Count of Monte-Cristo

In The Count of Monte-Cristo, Monsieur Noirtier de Villefort cannot move or speak but communicates with his granddaughter through words and letters in a book.

Project Gutenberg

The condition is thought to be rare, though just how rare is hard to say. Many locked-in patients can communicate through purposeful eye movements and blinking, but others can become completely immobile, losing their ability even to move their eyeballs or eyelids, rendering the command “blink twice if you understand me” moot. As a result, patients can spend an average of 79 days imprisoned in a motionless body, conscious but unable to communicate, before they are properly diagnosed.

The advent of brain-machine interfaces has fostered hopes of restoring communication to people in this locked-in state, enabling them to reconnect with the outside world. These technologies typically use an implanted device to record the brain waves associated with speech and then use computer algorithms to translate the intended messages. The most exciting advances require no blinking, eye tracking or attempted vocalizations, but instead capture and convey the letters or words a person says silently in their head.

“I feel like this technology really has the potential to help the people who have lost the most, people who are really locked down and cannot communicate at all anymore,” says Sarah Wandelt, a graduate student in computation and neural systems at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Recent studies by Wandelt and others have provided the first evidence that brain-machine interfaces can decode internal speech. These approaches, while promising, are often invasive, laborious and expensive, and experts agree they will require considerably more development before they can give locked-in patients a voice.

Engaging the brain—but where?

The first step of building a brain-machine interface is deciding which part of the brain to tap. Back when Dumas was young, many believed the contours of a

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Voice technology for models: 2 trends accelerating the evolution

As of 2021 voice engineering affords us the ability to management our intelligent residence and desire a tune or news report, as if we had human assistants at our beck and simply call. But for far more elaborate responsibilities, our present platforms can wrestle. This is of program an interim point out of affairs across the earth, new language styles are becoming experienced and refined just about every day. 

Voice assistants are turning out to be a great deal better at knowing not only the text a consumer suggests but also what the consumer is seeking to achieve. This purely natural language understanding is ready to answer to a consumer a lot more naturally, without getting to spell out each move. It can also maintain a lot more conversations with applicable abide by-up questions. It can keep context, so if you back up and adjust your intellect it can gracefully decide on up where by you left off. 

Dunkin allows a client to notify its voice assistant that they will have their standard get. Dunkin will then ensure a site and time, then send out an buy for their chosen beverage with a very simple voice command. 

In addition, artificial voice tools assure a bold frontier exactly where a virtual voice is indistinguishable from a real person–even a popular particular person or voice actor. This would allow scale for brand names to optimize and instantly tweak on the fly the voice with which they communicate to every purchaser. An early illustration of this tech at function is the solution to make Samuel L. Jackson your Alexa voice. Amazon clearly did not record him expressing each term Alexa could perhaps say. It recorded him pronouncing sufficient seems so that their software package could—in a split second—assemble a realistic simulation of Jackson’s natural talking voice declaring no matter what requirements to be reported. 

We are living in an age wherever substantially of what we want to execute is performed on a display, and the deluge of open tabs and apps make multitasking specifically tough. The capability to act on a “call to action” without opening up still an additional tab or buying up your telephone when leaning back can be extraordinarily effective. Voice interaction can produce this functionality. Due to the fact voice interactions, like CTV, are timestamped, cross-platform attribution can be a precious new measurement tool—given correct consumer privacy choose-ins. A buyer in the sector for a truck who sees a CTV advert for a new product could simply just say to a voice assistant, “Find a time on my calendar for me to test push the 2023 Ford F150 and make the reservation with my neighborhood supplier.”

The IAB is paying out close awareness to the option voice will play in the total marketing ecosystem. In some methods, the long run is already listed here. Most smartphones ship with a voice assistant. Intelligent speakers are turning into additional state-of-the-art although far more models at extremely-lower price tag factors roll out.

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