Audeo Innovation Hopes to Free Trapped Minds
By Jim Bray
The idea of mind control may fill your mind with fear – especially since there are still liberals around – but some kinds of mind control could actually turn out to be a really good thing.
You may remember the old science fiction or horror concept of using the brain to control outside objects – not just people, but things. Think Carrie, or Forbidden Planet, for example. And while we aren't quite there yet, it looks like we're getting closer than you may have thought.
Take Michael Callahan, for instance. He's a 24 year old grad student in systems and entrepreneurial engineering at the University of Illinois, who was awarded the $30,000 Lemelson-Illinois Student Prize recently for his "the Audeo", an invention that helps translate thoughts into speech that can be used to help people communicate – and even to operate devices like wheelchairs.
The Audeo is a lightweight wireless device that receives thoughts from the brain and turns them into audible speech – kind of an ultra high tech wireless speaker, I suppose. Callahan says his company, called Ambient, has also seen a breakthrough recently that has taken them from being able only to create individual words and to the point where they can produce continuous speech from the neurological signals.
Callahan apparently began his quest for the technology with a mind-controlled computer mouse project while he was still an undergrad, hoping to apply his undoubtedly considerable engineering skills to his passion of neuroscience. Then came the Audeo, which works by using high tech signal processing to capture neurological signals – by which I mean thoughts – and through technological tricks I don't begin to understand, translate those thoughts into actual speech.
From there, the speech can be used in various other manners and technologies that could exploit speech recognition, such as the example I mentioned above where they used it to operate a wheelchair, a video of which is viewable at the website www.theaudeo.com. But it doesn't have to help a person operate machinery – it can be used merely to help bring speech to people who can't speak for whatever reason.
Think about it: as long as a person can think, a person could speak.
Of course, the irreverent part of me wonders if there's (or will be) an application somewhere that can make "non-handicapped" people think before they speak. That could have even more wide-ranging benefits for humanity! But I digress….
If the Audeo can live up to its potential, people who have no motor skills at all could be able to communicate more efficiently, with no physical motion, than famed scientist Stephen Hawking can through the use of his finger, freeing many more minds from the prisons of their bodies.
Who knows what marvelous stuff is waiting to be communicated from those brains?
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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