• Alysa Salzberg

A new implant can translate brain signals to words

Recently, news of an almost unbelievable-sounding scientific breakthrough has been making the rounds: Scientists have developed a brain implant that can, essentially, translate your thoughts into printed or spoken words.


The story is real, and what may be even more surprising is that this implant isn’t the first of its kind; due to a new way of picking up on words, and new algorithms, it’s just the most effective brain-machine interface (BMI) to date.


Of course, as with any seemingly amazing invention or scientific breakthrough, there are a few caveats. For one, this particular BMI has only been tested with a limited number of words, and on a very limited number of subjects.


For another, the implication isn’t that soon we’ll all go around having machines speak our thoughts for us; this is more of a practical solution for basic communication needs of people who are physically unable to speak. Even the article’s author readily admits that the limited range of tests and vocabulary used mean that this device is “not enough to cover the complete works of Shakespeare.” At least, not yet.


The potential for a system like this is extremely exciting. And if we can find a way to capture brain activity without an implant, who knows, for better or for worse maybe one day it really will become just another part of everyday life, the next step up from dictating to your phone.


Read on to learn more about developing this new thought-to-speech software.



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