'Voiceless phone' reads your thoughts

The "Audeo" by Ambient is a neckband that relays nerve signals to a computer for vocalization.

The next generation in voice technology may bypass the mouth altogether. A couple of weeks ago we saw a consumer product called the "Roadrunner" headset with microphones strategically placed next to the voicebox--which readers say was based on military versions--but a new technology takes the concept to a level worthy of a sci-fi novel.

Ambient's "Audeo," which colleague Rafe Needleman saw demonstrated at a conference in September, is described as a "voiceless phone" that uses sensors worn around the neck. A trained individual "can send nerve signals to their vocal cords without making a sound," according to New Scientist Tech, adding that "these signals are picked up by the neckband and relayed wirelessly to a computer that converts them into a computerized voice." The technology behind the Audeo has also been used in controlling wheelchairs.

One reassuring aspect: Ambient co-founder Michael Callahan says the system requires "a level above thinking," meaning that it will work only with thoughts about specific words--so it won't blurt out whatever pops into your head.