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Sci-Tech

MIT's AlterEgo headset can read words you say in your head

When you think a sentence in your head, your brain sends signals to your mouth and jaw. MIT Media Lab's headset reads those signals with 92 percent accuracy.

mit-silent-speech-0

Lorrie Lejeune/MIT

I don't want to alarm you, but robots can now read your mind. Kind of. 

AlterEgo is a new headset developed by MIT Media Lab. You strap it to your face. You talk to it. It talks to you. But no words are said. You say things in your head, like "what street am I on," and it reads the signals your brain sends to your mouth and jaw, and answers the question for you. 

Check out this handy explainer video MIT Media Lab made that shows some of the potential of AlterEgo:

Now Playing: Watch this: MIT prototype can sense words you're about to say
1:11

So yes, according to MIT Media Lab, you may soon be able to control your TV with your mind. 

The institution explained in its announcement that AlterEgo communicates with you through bone-conduction headphones, which circumvent the ear canal by transmitting sound vibrations through your face bones. Freaky. This, MIT Media Lab said, makes it easier for AlterEgo to talk to you while you're talking to someone else.

Plus, in trials involving 15 people, AlterEgo had an accurate transcription rate of 92 percent. 

Arnav Kapur, the graduate student who lead AlterEgo's development, describes it as an "intelligence-augmentation device."

"We basically can't live without our cellphones, our digital devices," said Pattie Maes, Kapur's thesis advisor at MIT Media Lab. "But at the moment, the use of those devices is very disruptive.

"So, my students and I have for a very long time been experimenting with new form factors and new types of experience that enable people to still benefit from all the wonderful knowledge and services that these devices give us, but do it in a way that lets them remain in the present."