By Evan Ackerman
If you spend an inordinate of time obliviously chatting away on your cellphone in public (you know who you are), everyone else in the world would love it if you could teach yourself how to use Audeo, a combination of software and hardware that picks up nerve signals on the way to your vocal cords. Audeo translates the nerve signals into the words you’re thinking about saying, and then a computer voice says the words for you. For the system to be effective, all you have to do is learn how to instruct your body to say things without your body actually saying anything, which is tricky, but possible.
Of course, Audeo is not actually designed for annoying cellphone users. Rather, it’s being developed for people who have lost the ability to speak due to neurological diseases like ALS (interestingly, the same disease that this robot is designed to assist with). The system isn’t able to recognize words at this point. From what I understand, it matches a pattern of nerve signals to one of 150 different words or phrases. The developers are working on a more universal version, which will be able to interpret the nerve signals of individual phonemes, which are the individual sounds that make up words. It won’t be especially fast or easy, but users will be able to construct whatever words they want, effectively replacing physical speech.